As promised, AOL turned on its redesigned homepage Thursday in conjunction with CEO Tim Armstrong's ceremonial ringing of the New York Stock Exchange opening bell. The company formally spun off from parent company Time Warner this week and is now traded publicly, and to commemorate the media-centric rebirth, it enlisted branding agency Wolff Olins to give it a spiffy new look.
Wolff Olins describes the rebranding as "deliberately disruptive and deliberately unlike what is being done by other online media businesses...designed for an environment where media is no longer broadcast, but rather is discovered through fragmented, non-linear conversations." Deep.
Well, the new AOL.com looks pretty much the same as the old AOL.com, except that in addition to the new logo, I'm given the option to navigate through "themes" featuring various drawings and photos. Conveniently, the color scheme of the page changes to match the selected image. By default, I was offered an adorable smiling blue monster peeking out at me from behind all that shiny content that AOL believes will save not only its brand, but the entire beleaguered media industry.
The same fuzzy monster image was hanging on a massive banner outside the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday night, when AOL invited employees, advertising and marketing types, and the occasional celebrity (OMG! P. Diddy was there!) to a glitzy party on the trading floor (in which a significant amount of financial-industry machinery was likely in grave danger of being damaged by splashes from liberally mixed cocktails or rogue bits of sushi rice).
Really important question: What is the monster's name? I'm sure someone internal at AOL or Wolff Olins has come up with a nice nickname for the happy little fellow. Or perhaps this is a matter of major corporate dissent within the new AOL--it's not like we didn't know they'd have some big challenges right out of the gate.