Base Instincts

Here, in a nutshell, is the message of AOL’s new $35 million ad campaign: SHARON STONE IS NOT GETTING LAID.

In case you missed it, the kickoff for the floundering Internet company’s campaign—its new effort to belatedly push its broadband service—is a 30-second jaw-dropper that features the Basic Instinct vixen in a disturbing bedroom scene. In the post-orgasmic tableau, Stone, amid silky sheets, lets out a slightly deranged giggle before saying to no one in particular, “That was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.” She then turns to face her off-camera lover and adds, “So, can you stay? Or do you have to run?”

He has to run! Because that’s what he does! So sad! (Sharon, don’t take it personally!) A wide shot of Stone’s bedside shows a life-size version of the AOL Broadband Running Man icon, that little fella who’s perpetually pitched forward as if in mid-trot. He soon zooms offscreen, leaving Stone to her own devices. (After an announcer intones, “The new AOL for Broadband is just a little sexier than you might have imagined,” the suddenly bereft Stone mutters “icons” the way disgusted women say “men.”)

Wham, bam, thank you, Sharon Stone.

We must assume that the take-away here, beyond the fact that Stone is so hard up that she has to hook up with a C-list cartoon character (even Pokémon wouldn’t return her calls) is:

(a) Sharon’s husband, San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein, is working late—again!

(b) The dipshits at America Online—having just now realized that everyone wants broadband (as opposed to AOL’s standard pokey, dial-up service)—think the cutting-edge way to market their own high-speed service is with this hot hot hot new phenomenon called “cybersex.”

(c) The best way the dipshits at AOL could think to market this hot new “cybersex” thing was by hinting that it’s way better with broadband (think of how much more porn you can download!).

(d) Just like AOL’s dial-up service, AOL Broadband will suddenly and inexplicably depart, leaving you with connectus interruptus.

The campaign’s tag line is WELCOME TO THE WORLD WIDE WOW—but the only wow factor is roughly along the lines of “Wow, does Sharon Stone need money that badly?”

The irony is that in aligning itself with a silver-screen temptress whose moment has come and gone, AOL has only reminded us all how precipitously it, too, has faded. The other irony: While AOL pushes its $55 broadband package, its corporate sibling, Time Warner Cable, sells its popular Road Runner broadband service for just $45. Granted, its cartoon mascot is just as creepy as AOL’s Running Man—but at least that Road Runner bird has a trendy lock on sexual ambiguity. (Wile E. Coyote is a boy, we’re pretty sure, but good ol’ R.R. is … what, exactly?)

The Road Runner in bed with, say, Kevin Spacey—now, that would have been an ad!

Base Instincts