AOL Instant Messenger to Run TV-Like Ads

NEW YORK America Online plans to launch a new ad offering in November on its AOL Instant Messenger service that will let marketers deliver creative executions that resemble TV commercials.

This is the first time video- and audio-enabled ads will appear in place of a 120 x 60 banner ad at the top of AIM’s “Buddy List,” said Ron Bernstein, vice president of interactive marketing at AOL.

New Line Cinema is one of eight charter advertisers slated to take part in the pilot program that will run through the end of the year. The Los Angeles-based movie studio, a subsidiary of AOL parent Time Warner, plans to use a trailer to promote Elf, a comedy starring Will Ferrell that opens Nov. 7.

A media company, apparel marketer, video game maker and another movie studio are among the other participating advertisers, Bernstein said, but declined to name them.

In an effort to appease AIM’s audience of about 30 million monthly users, the free instant messaging service will run only two of these ads during a 24-hour period and will block the same one from appearing in the same day, said Bernstein. Users also will be able to stop, start, replay and enlarge the online commercial.

Also, AOL is emphasizing creativity in the 15- and 30-second executions. “We’ve encouraged our partners to be very creative and go beyond the re-purposed [TV] spot,” said Bernstein, adding that EyeWonder is providing the technology for the ads. “Since we have the element of interactivity, we’re encouraging our partners to take advantage of that. … Ads that are done well and are targeted well tend to be received well.”

Bernstein expects advertisers to be attracted to AIM’s “bipolar demographic,” largely comprised of people who use the service for business and teens and 18- to 34-year-olds who use it for socialization. As a result, AOL plans to offer an A.M. daypart to marketers looking to reach the former and P.M. daypart for those targeting the latter.

Dulles, Va.-based AOL plans to modify or improve the offering based on feedback gained during the two-month pilot program.