Merger synergies: AOL sticks to plan for branded content

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While the roiling within AOL Time Warner's executive suite continues, its America Online division is staying on the course outlined late last year by the unit's CEO Jonathan Miller.

The plan revolves around creating branded content franchises on AOL by packaging, promoting and programming the service with content from each of the company's divisions like Time Inc. titles and Warner Bros.' music, TV and film assets.

The template for the strategy was hatched more than a year ago within America Online via AOL Music. It's one of several content areas within the AOL Entertainment group, which includes AOL Movies, Games, Sports, Radio, Television, Celebrities and Tickets.

"Our emphasis is on showcasing partner content" via record labels, studios and other entertainment venues with which AOL has relationships, according to Kevin Conroy, VP-general manager AOL Entertainment.

"We're really evolving [AOL] into a true interactive network where people show up to watch, listen and interact with content," said Jeff Rowe, senior VP-executive producer, AOL, charged with programming content on the service.

standouts

Mr. Conroy and his team have created standout franchises like AOL Music's Sessions@AOL, a showcase of live performances and interviews, sponsored last quarter by American Express. According to ComScore/Media Metrix, AOL Music had 15 million unique visitors across the service in November.

AOL Entertainment sponsors have included Coca-Cola Co., Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile and Volvo of North America. AT&T Wireless recently joined with AOL on the AOL Music Mobile Club, to deliver new artist and concert updates via wireless handset.

American Honda Motor Co. is sponsoring a new franchise on AOL Music-the Artist Discovery Network, a venue for emerging artists with audio/video clips. Honda is using the sponsorship to help launch its Element SUV targeted to men ages 18 to 24.

"Young men share an interest in music. They tend to gravitate to the cutting edge bands, the ones that you might not hear on the local radio station," said Doug Hoffman, national advertising manager, Honda.

Nestle's Nescafe recently signed on to launch its Frothe instant cappuccino drink via a sponsorship on AOL Entertainment's "In the Know," an entertainment news area targeting women ages 25 to 34.

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