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AOL's Great Big Product Launch

October 22, 2002, 12:00 AM EDT

AOL 8.0 launch event Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center Tuesday, 10.15.02, 12 PM to 2:30 PM
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The scene at Lincoln Center was familiar: Hundreds of people milling around the lobby, waiting for a performance to start. But they weren't there for the New York Philharmonic, they were there for the launch of AOL 8.0—the latest version of AOL Time Warner's monolithic Internet service.

Free tickets for the show were advertised on AOL as both a launch and a thank-you event for AOL customers. About 2,500 people took advantage of the freebies (which were also available at Bloomingdale's), lured by entertainment by Alanis Morissette and Dana Carvey.

Giant inflatables in the shapes of elements of AOL's marketing campaign decorated the entrance to Avery Fisher Hall, and stiltwalkers from RoboStilts entertained the crowd. Inside the lobby, buffet tables were loaded with two kinds of chili and a variety of sandwiches (including fresh mozzarella and artichoke on Italian rolls, and turkey and Brie on cranberry rolls) from Restaurant Associates. Guests ate their lunch while exploring pre-show activities like the “Personalization Station” where an airbrush artist painted a model (both courtesy of Fandango) amidst computer stations that demonstrated how the new AOL 8.0 can be personalized. Another area featured a gallery that displayed oversize computer disks designed by the likes of Elizabeth Hurley, Magic Johnson and Donna Karan. (The disks were auctioned off on Ebay after the event, with proceeds going to each celeb's pet charity.)

An hour later, the real event began. Overseen by executive producer Susi Wuennenberg and event production company Broad Street Productions for Phil Cavanagh, AOL's vice president of corporate events, the show began with a live demo of the new AOL, set to music. The demo was followed by a performance from Warner Music Group artist Laura Pausini (a bit of the synergy promised by AOL's mega merger with Time Warner). Then the AOL Time Warner head honchos—Richard Parsons, Ted Turner and Steve Case—made appearances. Case traded one-liners with Carvey while introducing various members of the AOL community, including the “AOLvis” group, a group of Elvis impersonators in the audience. Finally, Morissette appeared and performed, and then it was all over. The Elvises, after all, had left the building.

Erika Rasmusson

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