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Marketer: AOL Agency: Grey London

AOL invites discussion about what the Internet means, and whether it's good or bad

[London] AOL is inviting U.K. consumers to debate the merits of the Internet in a campaign themed "Discuss." Two spots, one examining the positive impact of the Internet, and the other its more negative aspects, kick off the debate. Consumers are invited to think about the topic and join in the discussion on a dedicated Web site.

The first ad suggests the Internet is "the only place where freedom of speech truly exists" and "the most powerful educational tool the world has ever known." The second calls it "one of the most dangerous weapons ever created. ... A place for mankind to exercise its darkest desires." Both end with "What do you think?" and direct viewers to On the site are "think" pieces by journalists and cultural commentators, and regularly updated opinion polls.

Dave Alberts, chairman-creative director of Grey London, said, "All our rivals' ads are about speed and cost, but AOL wants to get people talking and to show that it understands the issues."

AOL even posts negative comments such as "This AOL discussion is veiled fascist propaganda at its worst" as well as the positive. On the first day of the campaign, 60,000 unique visitors accessed the site; visits have continued at the rate of 30,000 a day, with 1,200 postings so far.

"People are reading and contributing and using the site as a real blog," Mr. Alberts said. "This campaign demonstrates that advertising is so alive if it's relevant."

The "Discuss" campaign is also running on posters. The next TV spot invites discussion about the importance of parental control and another planned spot asks, "Are you an Internet immigrant or an Internet native?" AOL is also looking at potential documentaries and short films on Internet-related issues.

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