For spinoff, AOL rebrands itself as Aol.
AOL, which used to be AOL Time Warner, which used to be America Online, is now going to be Aol., as it begins new life on Dec. 9 as a spinoff from Time Warner, the company says.
Okay. Where to start on this one?
The Internet wags are already way ahead of me, lobbing in jokes, such as, "AOL? Aol.? LOL!"
It's pretty easy to be cynical about the changes at AOL, or perhaps Aol. Things have gone downhill for the company pretty steadily since the epic, and epically disastrous, merger with Time Warner in 2000, a $350 billion bet to create a new media giant. It never worked.
AOL got its name stripped off the combined company in 2003, because it was such a drag on Time Warner. A succession of chief executives -- Jonathan Miller, Randy Falco and now former Google sales guru Tim Armstrong -- have tried various ways to turn around the company, attempting to morph it from a dial-up Internet provider to an Internet advertising company and now a content company, it looks like.
Yearly job cuts have come as regularly as Christmas. Prior to next month's spinoff, AOL has offered buyouts to 2,500 employees, or one-third of its staff. The company is now much small than it once was, and now its logo is smaller, too.
The company hired big ad and research firms Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group's Wolff Olins agency to figure out what people thought of AOL and to craft a new logo. You can see some examples of how the logo will be used by clicking here. Here's an animation of the new logos.
What they came up with was a variation on the historic AOL all-caps logo, moving to an up-and-downstyle Aol., with a dot at the end, presumably in case people didn't know Aol. is an Internet company.
“Historically brand identity has been monolithic and controlling, little more than stamping a company name on a product," Karl Heiselman, chief executive of Wolff Olins, said in a statement. "AOL is a 21st century media company, with an ambitious vision for the future and new focus on creativity and expression, this required the new brand identity to be open and generous, to invite conversation and collaboration, and to feel credible, but also aspirational."
Then-AOL put its running man to work in a series of amusing television ads in 2003, as the company was trying to switch its dial-up customers to high-speed Internet. The ads merged live-action with animation, putting the running man on a treadmill, for instance, to the theme of "The Six Million Dollar Man." Another ad put the yellow guy in bed with a very satisfied-looking Sharon Stone, who cooed, "That was the most amazing experience I've ever had."
It's easy to scoff at a logo change for a company like AOL and make Titanic/deck-chair jokes, but logos and branding are an important part of a company's turnaround. AOL is quietly becoming a content powerhouse, with its Sphere newsroom and sports Fanhouse sites.
Now, the company needs earnings, which will be harder to come by. Third-quarter revenue and earnings at AOL continued to fall, with operating income down 50 percent compared to the third quarter of 2008, according to the company's report earlier this month.
-- Frank Ahrens
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November 23, 2009; 1:40 PM ET
Categories: The Ticker | Tags: AOL, Jonathan Miller, Randy Falco, Sharon Stone, Tim Armstrong, Time Warner
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