AOL Takes Upfront Swag to New Level: Ad Exec Gets Ford Mustang

Tim Armstrong Taps Detroit to Gin Up Excitement Around Content Initiatives

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Swag is hardly new at upfronts, but AOL took the practice of showering attendees with freebies to a new level at its digital content NewFront yesterday by giving away a Ford Mustang convertible to a media manager in attendance.

Tim Armstrong
Tim Armstrong Credit: Bloomberg

That moment of largess handily one-upped Microsoft, which raffled off Xbox 360 game consoles at its upfront earlier in the day.

The outsize gift (the car is priced at about $30,000) came toward the end of the program, which was held in New York in a cavernous event space near the High Line Park and relied heavily on the star power of CEO Tim Armstrong and Arianna Huffington. There was an element of showmanship, with Mr. Armstrong instructing hundreds of seated attendees to check under their seat bottoms for a key. The three keyholders (all from ad agencies) were invited to the stage, where Mr. Armstrong asked actress Marlo Thomas to choose her favorite: red, yellow or blue (the colors of the keys). Ms. Thomas chose yellow, and an astonished Jamie Dorfman, media manager at 360i, was the winner.

Looking to balance the lavish present with charity, AOL says it will donate $1 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (which Ms. Thomas fundraises for) for every mile Ms. Dorfman drives on the Mustang. And in what's likely a small consolation for the runners-up, it will donate $10,000 in their names to St. Jude for cancer research.

Ms. Dorfman told Ad Age that she was "stunned and excited at the same time" to first be called on stage and then to win the car.

"I haven't driven since high school, but it looks like a New York license is in order now!" she said. That may sound like a long time, but Ms. Dorfman graduated from Syracuse University in 2008, according to her LinkedIn profile.

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