Advertising Execs Worry Huffington Post Will Taint AOL's Brand

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But AOL CEO Tim Armstrong downplays Arianna Huffington’s reputation as a voice for the political left: "Our plan is scaling, not alienating."

NEW YORK – Madison Avenue is weighing the politics of the Huffington Post and whether it may hurt the AOL brand after their $315 million acquisition deal.

AOL agreed to buy the Huffington Post to draw more readers and advertisers, but some advertising  executives are expressing concern about Arianna Huffington’s reputation as a voice for the political left and the risk it could taint the broader AOL brand, the Wall Street Journal reported. Others, however, argue that all that matters are whether the combination gets Internet traffic and clicks and express hope that the deal will help AOL focus its editorial brand.

"All advertisers aren't open to all things," Catherine Warburton, executive vp of national buying for Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, told the Journal.

Christian Juhl, a president at the Publicis Groupe SA digital marketing firm Razorfish, said he will closely watch Huffington’s effect. "If that were to become the full voice of AOL editorial, then I think, yes, that would risk alienating some people," he said. At the same time, "clearly, she's a strong personality and brings a lot of talent with her...It brings more vibrancy for the AOL brand again, which is a good thing."

Most advertisers said they would wait and see what happens after the deal, according to the Journal.

Huffington herself after the deal announcement emphasized that political content at the Huffington Post makes up only 15 percent of traffic as it has expanded into various other fields.

"If people on their initial blush raise the political issue, it is a gut reaction,” AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong told the Journal. “Once you take a step back, you will see that we are building a very scaled, very significant content company. Our plan is scaling, not alienating."