AOL Eyes 3 Finalists for Interactive Chores

NEW YORK America Online has named three finalists in the review for its interactive creative and media duties, sources said. The client spends $55-60 million annually on online marketing, according to sources.

Contending are Modem Media in Norwalk, Conn., partly owned by Interpublic Group; independent Digitas in New York; and creative incumbent AtmosphereBBDO in New York, which is teaming with Omnicom Group sibling OMD, said sources.

Deutsch’s iDeutsch in New York also advanced, but bowed out due to workload, sources said. Online media incumbent Doner Direct in Detroit declined to participate.

The Time Warner unit arrived at the finalists after reviewing 15 requests for proposals that were sent out this fall [IQ Daily Briefing, Nov. 19]. A decision is expected for mid-January following presentations after the first of the year.

The review is being led by John Lane, who joined AOL in September in the newly created post of vice president of online advertising after spending seven years in various posts at Charles Schwab. Consultancy Goodman & Company in New York is managing the search.

Given AOL’s plans to ramp up its online advertising, “It made sense to step back and do a really thoughtful assessment of our needs,” said Lane, without confirming the contenders. He said he’s looking for a strategic, full-service partner.

For the final presentation at AOL’s Dulles, Va., headquarters early next year, agencies have been asked to develop an online marketing and media strategy within a set budget to drive acquisition for the company’s narrowband and broadband services. A decision is expected in mid-January.

AOL is in the midst of another review for its estimated $300 million offline U.S. media account, currently at Interpublic Group’s Initiative Media.