Would an AOL By Any Other Name Have a Better Image?

Mike Vorhaus on Digital Communications

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AOL is the name that kick-started the consumer internet -- "the internet on training wheels," as The Wall Street Journal said years ago.
Mike Vorhaus
Photo: Stephanie Diani
Mike Vorhaus is senior VP-managing director of new media and strategy for Frank N. Magid Associates.

But is that the right name for AOL now? After all, there's a lot of consumer baggage associated with AOL -- "America on Hold," for instance. There's also Wall Street baggage as AOL and Time Warner stock have not flourished. And AOL doesn't say anything special or positive to marketers and advertisers, does it? (Maybe it even says something negative; when AOL was in its heyday, relationships with advertisers and their agencies were sometimes problematic.) A fresh start would be good for AOL; a new name would help deliver it.

AOL must be thinking about it. Listed under risks in a recent Time Warner 10K filing: "AOL believes that the 'AOL' brand is associated in the minds of consumers with its dial-up Internet access service, and AOL is seeking to build a portfolio of other brands, such as MapQuest and TMZ.com, that have a strong and more updated consumer association. If the AOL brand continues to be used to identify the AOL dial-up internet access service as well as various web products and services, such as AOL.com, AOL Money & Finance and MyAOL, this could lead to consumer confusion and exacerbate the challenges AOL faces in attracting internet consumers to and engaging them on its web products and services."

The AOL name doesn't represent the real, emerging business model at AOL, which lately has been acquiring companies and growing and building value as an advertising sales and solutions provider, with additions such as Tacoda, Quigo, AdTech and Buy.at. It's time for a new name, a fresh brand. Let's go with a brand that says what AOL is doing today and doing very well: Advertising.com.

While Platform A (isn't that a Broadway show?) might be the name under which AOL is combining its advertising companies, Advertising.com really says it all -- a company building value by selling, delivering, reporting and optimizing online advertising and marketing. Likewise, it's a name that underlines its business opportunities to Wall Street.

Of course, if AOL signs a big deal with Yahoo, then there will be a much better consumer-facing name for AOL to adopt.
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