Brazil Snubs AOL, Again

America Online, Inc., just can’t catch a
break in Brazil.

Brazil’s council for ethics of the National Advertising Self-Regulation
Council
(CONAR) this week banned AOL from using its
advertising slogan, “The largest because it is the best,” in television,
print and radio promotions throughout the country.

The complaint was filed by Universo
Online
, Latin America’s largest Internet service provider, with more
than 760,000 subscribers in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina and
Columbia. AOL claims to have passed the 250,000-subscriber mark in the
region.

UOL took umbrage to AOL’s advertising claim, saying the numbers clearly
show the Latin America ISP with the most subscribers. Its numbers concur
with the Instituto Verificador de
Circulacao
, Brazil’s first independent Internet site
auditor. According to the IVC, UOL has held the number one spot for the
past three months with 4 billion page views, 10.4 million unique visitors
and seven million registered users.

The advertising body agreed, announcing “AOL has not presented enough
reasons to entitle it to use such a slogan in Brasil.”

AOL representatives were not available for comment on the ruling.

Jessica Chatham, American Advertising
Federation
public affairs assistant, said that while AOL is an AAF
member, the organization would defer all comments about the ruling to the
ISP.

This is the second Brazilian setback for the world’s largest Internet
service provider.

Last year, before launching regional portal AOL Brazil, it sued
Brazilian ISP America Online
Telecommunications
for trademark infringement and domain rights to
aol.com.br. The courts ruled in favor of the local ISP, maintaining it had
filed for the domain first and was an established company before AOL
decided to venture into Latin America.

The repeated setbacks are not good news for AOL and in particular its
fledgling spinoff, America
Online-Latin America
.

The new company is in the midst of its initial public offering, with about
$200 million raised in August. This is dramatically lower than AOLA’s
expectations to raise $425 million, and the ruling
doesn’t help its cause.

Brazil is considered the linchpin to Internet operations in the region with
41 percent of Latin America’s Internet users, according to the IDC, and largest established land-based
network. The IDC predicts more than 30 million Latin American Internet
users by the end of 2003.

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