AIM 7.0, Suspiciously Similar: An Ode to NSAC

AIM 7.0 was released a few weeks ago without much fanfare (note to AOL: when you release a product, you should at least put up a press release about it in your “Newsroom”).

While the wider world didn’t seem to bat an eye, the release of AIM 7.0 is big news to me – I like to think I worked on it.  You see, during my years at Boston University, I was involved in the school’s team for the American Advertising Federation’s annual National Student Advertising Competition (quite a mouthful).  Each year we worked on a campaign for a different national client.  Junior year (2007-2008), the client was AIM.  Our team designed a new version of AIM we called AIM 7.0 and created a campaign to push it to our assigned target: 18-24 year-olds in the US (Generation ME).

One of my teammates, Larissa, posted a few months back about how bits of our work for the 2006-2007 client, Coca-Cola, were popping up in the real world. (thanks for a bit of title inspiration, Larissa).  With the release of AIM 7.0, I figured I’d look at what, a year and a half after our project, the real AIM 7.0 stole from our version.*

*While AOL’s sponsorship of the competition lets it use our ideas carte blanche, the least they could have done was call to tell us ;-).


To Generation ME, the Aim 7.0 Platform is the social sidekick that helps me instantly share what I like and who I am.  It integrates all the easy-to-use communication tools I need.  The bottom line: It's all in my AIM.

That statement sums up our overall position/vision for our version of AIM.  Now let’s look at the specifics.  Some of our suggestions for AIM:

  • imageAdd Interface Tabs to reveal the program’s functionality
  • Redesign the Messaging Window to easily switch the conversation to video, audio, file sharing, and text messages
  • Integrate Buddy Info in AIM Pages to create one place for user information and get users to stumble upon AIM Pages
  • Create more Themes to create an AIM tailored to individual tastes


The entire campaign plan delves into lots more detail about the product and advertising campaign we planned, but you get the general idea: AIM is the place that integrates all the tools you need to easily communicate and share stuff with your friends.

Now compare that to some screenshots and one of the only reviews I could find of the release, from PC Mag (emphasis mine):

“The biggest part of it is the new Lifestream feature, which is designed to place AIM at the center of your online social activities. Not only does it incorporate Facebook and Twitter feeds into the AIM client and let you share photos, but it also lets your buddies track your YouTube and Delicious activity. A related “Me tab” feature gives contacts the opportunity to comment on or “like” your activities. The new client also sports new themes, saved away messages, more info on the Buddy list, and a new conversation interface.”

Look, ma! Tabs on the top instead of the side.  Rather than better revealing some of the features like Radio, they were cut from the software (Radio now launches in the browser).
imageThe new conversation window features *gasp* a big button for texts, and an easy way to switch to video, audio, and file sharing. Looks familiar… (though it’s not just similar to our design, it also looks suspiciously similar to to Windows Live Messenger – note the layout of the profile pics.  hmm)

Looks like we weren’t that far off.  A lot of the new features are pretty similar to our suggestions.  Sure, they discontinued the AIM Pages they wanted us to emphasis, and sure, they purchased Bebo, and sure, Facebook has opened up a lot in the last 18 months to allow integration with 3rd parties, but overall I think we did pretty well.


So congratulations to AIM for finally getting 7.0 out the door.  And congratulations to BU NSAC for a great project.  It was a ton of work, but the group of very creative, motivated people (pictured above) made it a ton of fun.  We may not have won (we lost our region by .7 points/100), but all those long hours paid off – AIM actually turned out like we said it should.  So there.

PS – I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the centerpiece of our campaign: the AIM Cube.  Fun and playful, the cube was designed to communicate that AIM did more than just IM.  Dmitriy, one of my teammates is a Flash wizard and made this animation for our banner ads.  Enjoy.

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