Database Travel: American plays up to AOL advantage

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We've all seen the press releases touting online promotions that promise to change the way people live and marketers market. But until recently, there's been little opportunity to see how those promotions work out in the demimonde of banners, buttons and hot links.

A look into one prominent initiative-the AOL AAdvantage program that the AOL Time Warner service administers with American Airlines-offers a chance to see just how potent such partnerships can be. Originally announced in January 2000, the effort married the AOL Rewards Program and the American AAdvantage Program to allow people to gain frequent flier miles and other rewards without ever stepping on a plane. It expresses itself on the Web through a continuous stream of promotional efforts. According to data from Jupiter Media Metrix, the agreement continues to gain speed both within the AOL network of Web sites and on other properties. In fact, the site at which the partnership received the most play was Yahoo!, at which the campaign garnered 175 million impressions during the month of April, according to Jupiter's AdRelevance unit.

Although the ads don't set a high water mark for online creativity (see above), they might for traffic. All told, ads for the promotion received 241.7 million Web impressions in April, using typical online come-ons such as "Your Reward is Waiting." In April, the partnership also gave lots of play to a gambit in which people can earn AOL AAdvantage miles by filling out opinion surveys. One headline? "Wanted: Your Opinion. Reward: Free Months of AOL." (How effective the ads were is another story. AdRelevance defines impressions as the number of times an ad was "rendered for viewing"-not how well it was received by those viewing it.)

The AOL properties appear to come in a distant second, but only because much of the promotion occurs within the virtual walls of the AOL service itself and wasn't ranked. On the popular AOL.com portal, the promotion garnered 27.1 million impressions. On sibling site Netscape.com, the number was 18.6 million impressions. The site that ranked tenth overall-AOL's Mapquest.com-garnered just under 650,000.

Other sites on which the promotion received a high volume of impressions were Microsoft Corp.'s MSN; MarketWatch and SportsLine, both associated with Viacom's CBS unit; Gay.com; and the New York Times Co.'s nytimes.com.

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