RealTime IT News

AOL's Glitzy Pitch

NEW YORK -- AOL brought out the C-Level glitz and glamour at an event here this week in an attempt to woo marketers used to spending their money on TV.

The event felt like a television network's "upfront," where a network shows off its new shows in an effort to get advertisers on board early.

AOL senior vice president Janet Baylis told internetnews.com that AOL hoped the event would help clients find a match for their marketing needs and start a conversation about a buy.

But reaction from marketers attending the event was mixed.

Matt Straznitskas of the marketing firm MECi told internetnews.com his concern with AOL's content offerings was that they depended too much on complementary television campaigns to work. He said without TV tie-in, a brand advertiser on any of the online platforms that AOL showed off would have a hard time getting noticed.

But Jeff Marshal of Starcom Worldwide told internetnews.com he was excited by what he saw yesterday.

"We're in a world where content is going to live on a lot of different platforms, and advertisers have to be comfortable with that."

Celebrities making appearances at AOL's First Look were Mario Lopez of Saved By the Bell fame and Brooke Burns, a professional guest star since her Baywatch Hawaii days.

Lopez will host an online game show called Gold Rush Goes Hollywood, which will run in the third quarter of this year. The show is the second installment in a series for AOL. Its first run attracted nearly 11 million users, according to a statement.

Burns will host another online competition, iLand, in which contestants settle a remote island and AOL users decide their fate. The winner's prize is a private island. ILand launches in the second quarter of 2008. The contest was created with Endemol, which is the production company behind television shows such asDeal or No Deal, Fear Factor and Big Brother.

AOL then introduced "Million Dollar Bill," another online game show in which contestants win or lose based on serial numbers of U.S. dollar bills in circulation. A confetti-like fluttering of fake dollar bills dropped over the audience from above to provide glitz for the show, which launches in Q1 2008. AOL, Madison Road Entertainment, Stone & Co. and Viewer Rewards co-produce the show.

AOL's First Look also included a video clip featuring DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg who pretended to play "Ye Olde Shrek the Third Royal Tournament," another online production AOL hoped marketers in the audience will plan to buy advertising around.

The clip began with Katzenberg saying he was too busy to finish Shrek the Third to come to New York. Then the camera panned to his computer screen, which featured the game. Behind Katzenberg's head a dry-erase scoreboard showed that he was losing to Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett, producer of Survivor. Katzenberg complained that it's tough keeping up with such "alpha males."

"Ye Olde Shrek the Third Royal Tournament" launches April 26, three weeks before the movie hits theaters.

Ellen DeGeneres also made a video appearance. She announced a cross-platform collaboration between The Ellen DeGeneres Show and AOL. DeGeneres said she would select the best hometown in the United States based on viewers' descriptions of them uploaded online.

The collaboration begins in the fourth quarter of 2007. It was created in partnership with Telepictures Productions.