EXCLUSIVE — It appears that AOL has plans to allow their users to disable the promotional text at the bottom of their e-mail. At this time, it appears only a select few have been able to successfully disable the company’s ads at the bottom of their e-mail.
A little over a year ago, you could say that I was sort of thrown under the bus by the new “enhancement” by AOL to include advertisements within all outgoing e-mails. At the time, the company gave no word on the rather baffling decision to include ads in e-mail; which left a blogger with nothing more than speculation (something you don’t do on a corporate blog) and as expected, upset and disgruntled users.
Since the inception of including AOL-branded advertisements in e-mail, there was a little PR mess, allegedly, AOL’s Corporate Communications responded to criticism, justified such intrusions into their subscriber’s e-mail, citing AOL users were surveyed — unsurprisingly, no one has (to this day) admitted to taking that survey, and eventually silence.
Fast-forward to today. It appears AOL will be permitting AOL users to choose if they want to sell advertising on their personal, private and business conversations. In the screenshot below (courtesy from an AOLer), they documented the option provided by the former Dulles, VA, now New York based company.
So where is this undocumented, unannounced, hidden setting? Sources indicate AOL Keyword: FOOTER is the place to go to change these settings, within the legacy AOL software. If you’re one of the lucky few, you would get something like this:
Of course, if you represent the unlucky majority, you still get to flaunt AOL’s advertisements in all your communications with your family, friends and co-workers. Pictured below is what you’ll receive if you aren’t allowed to disable AOL e-mail ads:
The URL to access this feature is
For those lucky enough to not be forwarded chain mail lately, or those who have been successful migrating your friends and family on over to GMail, here is what an e-mail may look like with the ads AOL inserted for all subscribers, unilaterally, with no choice to opt-out (stroked in red):
I did some sleuthing on this feature. Did AOL even attempt to notify users about this — at least a Beta test or anything? No. The URL in and of itself leads me to believe AOL will start letting third-parties access your e-mail (hopefully, with your explicit consent) under their new Open API program, under the newly refined “AOL Developer Network,” which basically consists of six AOL developers making applications and not getting compensated for their works. This leads to the more important question — will AOL sell real estate on your private, personal and professional e-mail to a third party, if you use a non-AOL interface (like Facebook using an AOL Mail mashup)?
In any case, people will do just about anything if it’s free. But that’s an entirely different topic.
— UPDATE 9:40PM MST —
An AOLer contacted AOL Support regarding disabling advertisements. Their official response (canned) is:
My name is <CCC NAME>. I would like to thank you for writing and making us aware of your concern.
I understand you have concerns about the free services that AOL offers appearing at the bottom part of your outgoing e-mail.
The short message that is now included at the bottom of your emails is a reminder of AOL’s free services, including AOL email. We considered the addition of this message very carefully, just as we will consider your feedback.
You can disable the e-mail message footer in one of these three ways:
- Via Keyword: Footer through AOL clients 9.1 and below.
- By logging into http://controls.api-mail.aol.com/mailcontrols/app/en-US/FooterControl.html.
- Via AOL WebMail by going to “Settings” then “Compose.” (Coming Soon)
We highly value what our members have to say. We use feedback like this to make improvement to the service. Many of the changes made throughout the years have been the result of ideas offered to us by members just like you.
Thank you for writing to us.
<CCC FIRST NAME>
Customer Care Consultant
AOL Member Services
— UPDATE MAY 8, 2008 6:44 PM MST —
After further analysis, it appears that AOL Keyword: Footer is restricted to paying AOL users. Never fear, this one is easy to circumvent.
- Go to http://bill.aol.com/ and sign in as usual.
- Update your payment method to a credit card and add one in. (They won’t charge it).
- Go to http://changeplan.aol.com/ and choose a plan (any plan). I used the $9.95 one.
- Go to AOL Keyword: FOOTER, and opt out of the mail footer ad.
- Go back to http://changeplan.aol.com and change your plan back to FREE AOL / CANCEL AOL.
- Go to http://bill.aol.com/ and scroll down to the bottom to confirm that you have a pending price plan change to “AOL” or “Free AOL.”
- Go to http://marketingpreferences.aol.com/ and opt-out of the marketing that AOL signed up up for without your permission.
After a number of AOL users have provided me feedback, it appears that the only people who are on the Free AOL plans are not able to access AOL Keyword: Footer. I did some testing and volunteered my own credit card to test this, and after I switched to a paid-AOL plan, I was able to disable my mail ads. I reverted back to Free AOL and the lack of mail ads setting held. Sorry, I’m not switching to AOL, I still use GMail. If a service makes you jump though all those hoops to disable their ads isn’t worth having.
AOL USERS: IF AOL KEYWORD: FOOTER WORKS FOR YOU (OR NOT), PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
[Credit for discovering this feature is to JadeIce1119 and "Dee"]