AOL Time Warner to Ditch Inconvenient AOL Brand Name?

12 August 2003

The globe’s largest media group AOL Time Warner is reportedly mulling an internal proposal to excise the unpropitious initials AOL from its corporate branding.

The proposal comes not from disgruntled members of the Time Warner faction but from within the America Online division itself. From the horse’s mouth, in fact.

Jonathan Miller, chairman/ceo of the AOL division had been tasked by group ceo Richard Parsons to assess the impact of the brand name both on the parent company and AOL itself. And according to the Financial Times, the former has urged his boss “to give me back my brand”.

Miller, who took the AOL hotseat last year, believes that the name change would underscore AOL’s divisional ranking within the company. But, argues the FT, it is also likely to be seen as a tacit admission that the $160 million mega-merger of AOL with Time Warner in January 2000 is a spectacular failure”.

However, three years is not a long period to reap the harvest of the massive merger given its complexity and enormity, and WAMN is reminded of Mark Twain’s famed comment on reading his premature obituary: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Nevertheless, no former AOL executives remain within the group’s senior ranks and three of the four most senior AOL honchos at the time of the merger (chairman Steve Case, chief executive Gerald Levin and co-chief operating officer Bob Pittman) have already walked the plank.

Furthermore, the Time Warner faction has long fought against the continued inclusion of AOL in the group’s corporate title, believing that it spotlights the underperforming America Online division to the detriment of robust performances by the group’s Warner Brothers film studio and its cable networks.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff