- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

America Online is making an aggressive push for its newest Internet software with the help of a local event-marketing firm.

The Internet division of Time Warner Inc. has hired Momentum Marketing of Alexandria to create and execute a nationwide program to sell AOL 9.0 Optimized to people seeking Internet access.

AOL “requires a high-energy campaign that speaks directly to the consumers,” said Brad Nierenberg, president of Momentum Marketing.

The firm has 46 employees manning kiosks at retailers in 12 markets, including Washington, Baltimore, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

The employees, from around the country, came to Washington for a four-day training session to learn everything about AOL 9.0, including its spam filters, entertainment features and instant-messaging capabilities. The 35 10-foot-high in-store kiosks, which include a 30-inch flat screen TV, will be used for demonstrations.

About 1,800 events are scheduled through December at Best Buy, Comp USA, Circuit City, Office Depot and Wal-Mart locations. Each store will have one or two kiosks per event.

It won’t be hard to miss the events. A 12-foot-tall inflatable running man — AOL’s trademark symbol — will be stationed outside the stores.

RFP in process

The ad campaign to attract international visitors to the country will take longer to get off the ground than expected.

At a meeting of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Promotional Advisory Board last week, members learned that the request for proposal (RFP) — which will detail the objectives of the campaign and responsibilities of the winning firms — won’t be issued anytime soon.

That’s because the government’s long RFP process has to go through several steps, says Doug Baker, deputy assistant secretary for service industries, tourism and finance at the Department of Commerce.

“We’re looking to streamline the [RFP] process to get in the marketplace more quickly,” he said. “But we’ll be lucky if [the RFP] is issued by the end of the year.”

Earlier this year, President Bush approved a $50 million appropriation to create an international tourism campaign. Officials say this campaign will be a much-needed boost for the industry, which was hit hard after the September 11 attacks.

About $40 million will be spent on the campaign, which will target Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany. The rest of the money will be used to match funds from states and territories that will do additional marketing to support the campaign.

The 15-member advisory board, which reports directly to Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, hoped to begin the campaign early next year.

“We need to get [the campaign] out by the first quarter to be effective in ‘04,” said Noel Irwin Hentschel, chief executive officer of American Tours International and vice chairman of the board.

The details of the RFP are being ironed out. It is likely to call for separate agencies to handle advertising, media and public relations. Once the RFP is issued, agencies could have up to 60 days to submit proposals.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884.Advertising & Marketing runs every other Monday.

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