Execs eager to see cross-media deals

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Ad executives across the country salivate at the thought of the cross-media promotion and advertising deals that will more than likely emerge once the proposed $100 billion-plus merger between America Online and Time Warner is finalized, but for now they must wait through the AOL-TW "quiet period."

"We have a number of clients who are interested in promotions and special sponsorship opportunities, but we can't have the discussions until the merger goes through," says Valerie Muller, senior VP-director of print services MediaCom, New York.


"Mega-advertisers are looking at locking in large advertising deals over a long period of time," says Martin Walker, chairman of Walker Communications, a magazine consulting company. "At the lower level there may be some noise, but not much activity. Many times those multimedia deals [from smaller clients] are just ways of getting deeper discounts and I don't think that's what AOL and Time Warner are going to be doing."

Exactly what cross-advertising opportunities await marketers, or even what marketing possibilities may pop up between the magazine unit and AOL, are all speculative, but given the synergy in place between the online content provider and Time Inc. publications, a lot can be expected.

"We're expecting [the merger] to be very positive within Time Inc.," says CEO Don Logan. "Already we're in the process of working to sell subscriptions over AOL. In addition, we'll work closely with them on Internet activities and all magazines' Web sites."

When Teen People launched in 1998, it simultaneously appeared in AOL's teen content area. The magazine hosts live online chats on AOL with featured artists. Editorial content is provided, including creations such as "'Nsynchronized swimming," an animation featuring the band 'N Sync.

"We have an exclusive arrangement with AOL," says Peggy Mansfield, general manager of Teen People Online. "We promote our content on AOL within the pages of the magazine and the presence we have on AOL talks about what we have in the magazine as well. It is a pitch-and-catch effect."


AOL is thick with Time Warner properties, from CNN and HBO to Entertainment Weekly and Progressive Farmer. Fortune and its online small business version FSB.com appear in AOL's MarketTalk area. The magazines' presence is promoted in the printed pubs with a listing of their AOL keywords.

People, in a venture with AOL, offers its Digital Heroes Campaign, which links more than 100 celebrities in an online teen mentoring program.

"We've had a strong relationship with AOL for the past three years," says EW.com Director Bill Stutzman. "It's been an ongoing relationship. Potentially, there could be more things down the road."

One thing ad executives expect to come down the road is a packaged ad deal.


"It will become a standard sales offering of the new company to combine Internet and magazine space in the same proposal," says Gene DeWitt, CEO-Optimedia International, New York. "We have done deals that have involved Entertainment Weekly and its Web site and Time and its Web site. I don't think that will be the exception, it will be the rule."

"What Time Warner might have," speculates Tom Wolzien, an analyst at investment and management researcher Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., "is the ability to offer guarantees to old media advertisers. They can bring these top-drawer advertisers to the new media of AOL, let them test the waters, and if it doesn't work out, offer them guaranteed make-goods in Fortune, on CNN, and so forth."

Contributing: Jon Fine, Charles Pappas, Iris Cohen Selinger.

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