Ad Space – Remember America Online?

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
America Online

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
It’s the New Millennium, and AOL’s gonna be on top forever, yo!

When choosing ads for this column, sometimes I pick ones that have a creative (i.e. bizarre) approach to shilling their product. Sometimes I go for ones that are unbelievably tone-deaf and offensive. Sometimes, ones that reflect a broader trend that we can examine. Sometimes, ones that are simply excellent examples of filmmaking.

This one, though? This is all about the nostalgia.

I mean, I’m pretty sure I never saw this commercial when it was current, but it is so thoroughly, utterly of its time, watching it’s like opening a window back to 2002.

The simple fact that it’s an America Online commercial would be enough to make it nostalgic. Sure, AOL the company is still around, and according to Wikipedia, in 2015 there were still around two million people using their dial-up Internet service. But for me and many others, that swirl-in-a-triangle logo and the digital voice announcing “You’ve Got Mail”: those belong squarely to the Turn Of The Millennium era.

Plus: chat rooms, Moviefone, spelling “email” as “e-mail”, buying Internet access by the hour. Heck, according to the YouTube uploader, they got this ad off a DVD that came free with a box of cereal, which is the most early 2000’s thing I’ve ever heard.

But beyond all those dated aspects, just look at the style of this monstrosity. This was back when digital editing was first giving people new ways to compile footage and to integrate filmed content with digital graphics. And, in the words of one Ian Malcolm, they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. Only in this era could professional editors have decided: yeah, two jump cuts per second sounds about right.

Like, I don’t think you could make a parody of late 90’s/early 2000’s media that crammed this many retro cliches into forty seconds. All it’s missing is a reference to Y2K and a skateboarder with a backwards baseball cap.