AOL on target

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When it completes its takeover of Time Warner, America Online will become the world's biggest media company. But AOL built itself into a media powerhouse by first being a disciplined marketer, and it is that success that made AOL the right choice for Advertising Age's 2000 i.Marketer of the Year.

AOL created its omnipresent new-media brand the old-fashioned way -- with an incessant campaign of old media and direct marketing.

It became the ultimate Internet direct marketer. AOL had its fling with TBWA/Chiat/Day and wacky "Jetsons" ads, but it soon saw the wisdom of returning to what works: straightforward, direct pitches that explain the product and get consumers online. There's a lesson here for dot-coms that wonder why their clever, over-the-top -- and irrelevant -- brand campaigns haven't worked.

AOL has done a fine job of adjusting to the ever-changing rules of the online marketing world. But there's nothing especially mysterious about this company. It is a hard-working, focused organization that has mastered the basic rules of marketing. That is a story worth repeating.

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