AOL Reviews Interactive Chores

NEW YORK America Online has launched a review for its interactive creative and media duties, the company confirmed on Wednesday.

The Time Warner unit has sent 15 requests for proposals to East Coast shops that have interactive creative or media capabilities or a combination of both. The client spends $55-60 million annually on interactive marketing, according to sources.

“This review is intended to ensure that we are partnered with agencies that understand the full breadth of creative and media options and which will best fulfill our … requirements,” the Dulles, Va.-based client said in a statement.

Independent Doner Direct in Detroit, which has handled AOL’s online media buying and planning for less than a year, has declined to participate, an AOL representative said.

AtmosphereBBDO, the online creative incumbent, is defending. The interactive shop landed digital duties in July shortly after its parent, Omnicom Group’s BBDO, was awarded AOL’s product advertising and broadband account [IQ Daily Briefing, July 22].

“We fully understand AOL’s decision to conduct a review, and absolutely plan to participate,” said an AtmosphereBBDO statement.

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. Len Short, who joined AOL as executive vice president of brand marketing in January, is also a Schwab alumnus.

Consultancy Goodman & Company in New York is conducting the search. Finalists will likely be named in mid-December, with a decision expected by January, the AOL rep said.

The review comes one month into AOL’s largest online push to date, with spending estimated at $10 million [IQ Daily Briefing, Oct. 13]. That effort uses a mix of rich media and contextually relevant ads to reinforce the offline campaign promoting AOL 9.0 Optimized.

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. Pile & Co. in Boston is overseeing that search.