Places of Color, a soon-to-launch America Online-backed ISP for urban communities, last week was close to hiring an agency to handle its $15 million account.
The Internet service provider was reviewing three agencies with ethnic expertise to handle creative, media and other duties for the service aimed at minorities and "disenfranchised white people" lacking Internet access, said Places of Color founder-CEO Darien Dash.
"Our intention is to go after the marketplace in a unique way," employing print, radio, TV and online media to advertise the service, Mr. Dash said.
Mr. Dash also is CEO of DME Interactive Holdings, the African-American-owned Internet company AOL partnered with to launch the service. AOL is taking a minority stake in DME Interactive.
About 70% of Places of Color's effort will be direct marketing, Mr. Dash said. Events and promotions also are planned. "We can work with some good party promoters to plan a good party," Mr. Dash said.
Places of Color will provide urban, ethnically diverse communities with Internet access via a customized version of AOL's CompuServe 2000.
The subscription service will cost $19.95 a month and is set to launch by the end of March or early April. The ad campaign will precede the site's launch.
Mr. Dash said he and AOL discussed launching the service for about five months.
"AOL is the best of the best, and we've been able to leverage [its] infrastructure and services," Mr. Dash said. "They are also very committed to making this project successful."
This isn't AOL's first outreach attempt. AOL and Wal-Mart Stores in December struck a deal for a co-branded ISP to reach small towns.
Places of Color hopes to make content agreements with companies such as BET, which earlier this month launched its own African-American portal at BET.com, as well as other ethnic sites.
"We are not in competition with BET," Mr. Dash said. "We want to be where the people are. We are going to target those dollars anywhere and everywhere those constituent communities are. If that means we have to write it on the walls in the bathroom or put it on BET or Fox, that's what we're going to do."
Copyright February 2000, Crain Communications Inc.