America Online is listening to credentials presentations from agencies in what could be a prelude to a review of its $100 million brand advertising account.
The account is currently at TBWA Chiat/Day, New York, although AOL suspended brand advertising recently because of consumer access problems.
The leading online service is believed to have contacted at least two Interpublic Group of Cos. agencies about the business, possibly including McCann-Erickson Worldwide.
INPUT FROM WESTERN'S HOLT
Dennis Holt, chairman-CEO of Western International Media, Los Angeles, a unit of Interpubic, is said to have made some agency recommendations to AOL; Western handles buying for AOL's direct-response ads.
Edward Leonard, who joined AOL within the last month as VP-brand advertising and promotions--from Six Flags Entertainment, a McCann client--has been handling the initial talks. He reports to Senior VP-Marketing & Communications Audrey Weil, who will have a role in the discussions.
It's likely Robert Pittman, a former chairman-CEO of Six Flags and now CEO of AOL Networks, is looking for an agency whose work can help define his vision for the service.
AOL Networks, responsible for advertising the online service, would not confirm a review. However, a spokeswoman said "a decision about America Online's advertising plans could be reached by the end of the month." She would not elaborate.
Mr. Leonard's charge is believed to be to reach a decision by the end of the month on 1997 ad strategies, though not necessarily a decision on ad agencies.
TBWA Chiat/Day Managing Director Mary Maroun said she had "no knowledge of America Online putting the account in review."
Executives at other agencies said it's certain AOL has decided to use fresh creative when it does return to TV this year rather than continuing to use "The Jetsons" music in TV spots. The cartoon theme was a major component in creative from TBWA Chiat/Day.
AOL pulled those spots when it faced lawsuits from states where subscribers had had access difficulties and accused AOL of advertising a service it could not deliver.
Ted Leonsis, named president-CEO of AOL Studios when Mr. Pittman joined the company last fall, had brought in TBWA Chiat/Day and oversaw the licensing of the music for the campaign. In talking to other agencies, Mr. Pittman may now be looking to put his own stamp on AOL.
Contributing: Laura Petrecca.
Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.