"There's never been an easier time to join!" exclaimed America Online's ads for its new Version 7.0 software. All I could think of each time one of those cloying, happy, repetitive testimonials flooded my TV screen was, "There's never been an easier time to change the channel!"
Alas, I could not. I was sentenced by Ad Age to watch eight hours straight of CNN, tuning in not just to the 4-to-midnight lineup but also to the 232 ads and promotional messages that ran during that time.
What I got was a lesson in AOL Time Warner promotional synergy. Half the commercials advertised AOL Time Warner ventures. The biggest chunk promoted CNN and its various shows. There also was an ad for Warner Bros.' "Training Day." There were ads for Turner Classic Movies, "Witchblade" on TNT, several promos for TNT's Screen Actors' Guild Awards program and ads for the Fortune Leadership Forum in Chicago-featuring, among other execs, AOL Time Warner Co-Chief Operating Officer Bob Pittman.
Curious demographic cross-promo: Ads for The WB young-female-targeted shows "Gilmore Girls" and "Smallville" during "Moneyline."
And then there were the ads for AOL. And AOL High-Speed Broadband on Time Warner Cable. And Road Runner High-Speed Online on Time Warner Cable. And EarthLink High Speed Internet on Time Warner Cable.
The ads for AOL's Version 7.0 were the most memorable, as they've become a staple of AOL's ad strategy, years in the making. Haven't most of CNN's viewers already signed up for some online service by this point?
CNN would seem a good place for the broadband ads. Despite all of AOL's newbie ads, the network surely has numerous experienced online users who are prime candidates to trade up to broadband. Yet the ads for the broadband alternatives were overwhelming and confusing; what's the difference between all of these services that have ties to AOL Time Warner?
It was a lot of AOL Time Warner for one night. And, I daresay, more than any I'll subject myself to again any time soon.