AOL seeks boost for Spanish-language service

America Online Inc. (AOL) on Monday announced its largest Spanish-language advertising and marketing campaign to support its fledgling AOL Latino online service for U.S. Hispanics.

The ad onslaught will be delivered via television, radio, print media and outdoor advertising to promote the AOL Latino 9.0 Optimizado Spanish-language service. AOL, in Dulles, Virginia, didn’t disclose how much money it is spending on this campaign.

A television spot that will run on the Univision and Telemundo Spanish-language networks in 10 large Hispanic markets will show the AOL Running Man icon in a classroom and close with the voiceover in Spanish: “America Online learned Spanish … Introducing the new AOL Latino.”

AOL, which is Time Warner Inc.’s Internet unit, launched AOL Latino in October to capture as subscribers U.S. Hispanics who prefer to use Spanish on the Internet. The AOL Latino interface and menu items are in Spanish, and it features Spanish-language news and content about sports, entertainment, music and lifestyle issues. It offers features such as parental controls, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), mail and spam controls, e-mail virus scanning and spell check for e-mail and AIM. An AOL Latino subscription costs the same as a regular AOL subscription and includes access to the main AOL English-language service.

AOL has about 2.2 million Hispanic subscribers in both its regular English-language service and AOL Latino. There are about 38 million Hispanics in the U.S., which makes the group the largest minority in the country.

This ad campaign runs through January and will be followed by a non-traditional “grassroots” effort designed to communicate more directly with Hispanic communities, said David Wellisch, AOL Latino’s vice president and general manager, who declined to disclose initiative details.

He also declined to say how many subscribers AOL Latino expects to attract through this current ad campaign. Along with the ad campaign, AOL later this month will distribute installation CDs to Hispanic households through direct mailings, retail outlet displays and ad inserts, he said.

AOL estimates that in the next four to five years about 5 million new Internet service accounts will be created in the U.S. Hispanic community, and AOL expects to get an “equivalent” share to the one it has today, which is about 45 percent of U.S. Hispanic Internet accounts, Wellisch said.

AOL also owns part of America Online Latin America Inc., a company that offers AOL-branded online services in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Puerto Rico.