AOL and CompuServe reboot marketing plans

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Both America Online and CompuServe staged a return to marketing last week, with AOL easing in slowly through an interim TV effort and CompuServe making its first member-recruitment efforts since closing WOW! and embarking on a back-to-basics approach.

AOL--which had curtailed its bold TV push for new users from former agency TBWA Chiat/Day, New York, earlier this year because of network overload problems--is testing the waters with a six-week effort using one TV spot produced by AOL although conceived by Gotham.

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"We're not soliciting new members. We're trying to build the brand," said Senior VP-Marketing and Communications Audrey Weil. "You won't see 800-numbers on these ads."


Though this interim effort is budgeted at less than $5 million, Ms. Weil said AOL will match 1996's $70 million in ad spending this year. The service is expected to launch a major branding drive via Gotham and possibly new roster agencies in the fall.

CompuServe is continuing its 9-month-old push to retain the 1.6 million subscribers its CSi service had as of January.

After hiring database specialist AIM Marketing, Fairfield, Conn., to help segment its database, CompuServe has begun a major direct mail and e-mail marketing push to boost the subscriber base.

CompuServe dropped 2.5 million pieces of direct mail April 30 promoting CSi to new prospects and will run print ads beginning in July in monthly Internet and business publications.

Gail Walls, director of relationship marketing, said CompuServe had wanted to develop its database and an integrated marketing program before going out with new marketing. The company declined to discuss ad spending.

CompuServe was passed last year by AOL, now an 8 million-member online service.


Prodigy--under new ownership and working with agency Weiss, Whitten, Stagliano, New York--is on the heels of CompuServe's domestic market share, with 1 million members.

Earlier this month, Prodigy launched a print campaign in USA Today and computer monthlies.

CompuServe is in discussions about hiring additional direct-marketing agencies for 1998, according to Ms. Walls, who said no formal review is under way.

Roster agencies DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago; Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.; and Resource Marketing, Columbus, Ohio, were not involved in the new campaign.

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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