Internet service provider EarthLink Monday unveiled an ad campaign designed to position the No. 2
ISP as a pioneering, freedom-loving alternative to market leader America Online.
Atlanta-based EarthLink is currently a distant second to AOL in terms of pay-for-access subscribers.
With about 4.3 million subscribers and a 3.2 percent market share, the company commands almost
a fifth of Dulles, Va.-based AOL’s reported 25 million subscribers, according to Internet Advertising
Report sister publication ISP-Planet.
EarthLink’s campaign, created by TBWA/Chiat/Day, is aimed at communicating that the ISP delivers
what it believes is the essence of the Internet — the thrill of exploration, discovery and learning, or what
it calls “the Real Internet.
“With the commercialization and re-purposing of the Internet and its content, many people and
Internet service providers alike have forgotten the virtues of the ‘Real Internet,'” said Claudia Caplan,
EarthLink’s vice president of brand marketing. “‘The Real Internet’ is an open, unrestricted, interactive
experience that means something different to each user.”
That positioning is something of a jab at AOL, which for many years has been criticized by some
Internet users for providing its subscribers with a less-than-complete version of the Internet through
“Our creative team tried to capture the essence of the EarthLink brand as a cause,” said
TBWA/Chiat/Day chairman and worldwide creative director Lee Clow. “EarthLink champions people’s
pure relationship with the Internet and allows people to discover what the ‘Real Internet’ is all about.”
To communicate that, the campaign uses historical explorers and thinkers — like Galileo, Magellan,
Creatives broke in mid-November with a two-week “teaser” campaign, featuring unbranded print ads
in alternative weeklies in 14 key markets. The “teaser” portion also featured outdoor and out-of-home
ads — postcards, street postings, bus shelter posters, taxi tops and billboards. Ads also were
projected on buildings in high-traffic areas of Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City and Sacramento,
One execution of the black-and-yellow ads implored users to “Unlock Your Inner Magellan … Get
That teaser campaign complemented a handout outreach in the 14 markets, referencing
TBWA-created Web sites, including www.innermagellan.com, www.galileoschildren.com and
www.speedupevolution.com. The sites include branded screensavers, desktop wallpaper, electronic
postcards and discussion forums — as well as animated Flash presentations that criticize
“dumbed-down versions” of the Internet.
The campaign came out of “tease” mode on Monday, when ads featuring the EarthLink name and
logo appeared in those markets, where they will run through year-end.
Beginning Monday, the print campaign will expand to include branded ads in the Wall Street
Journal and New York Times. Throughout the month, ads are slated to run in several other
major national publications.
Sixty- and 30-second television spots also broke Monday. The spots feature animated people
discussing the “Real Internet”.
Two additional 30-second spots are slated to run beginning in mid-December. Those ads feature
Magellan and Darwin, the latter of whom says, “You don’t just buy something online, you evolve the
future of business.”
Spending on the campaign was not disclosed.