Earlier this year, Brafton reported on the expanded partnership between Google and AOL, but headlines about the search alliance between Bing and Yahoo grossly overshadowed the search giant's partnership with the fifth-ranking portal. Now, AOL may catch the interest of internet users and online marketers with its latest content-based, decluttering ad format that it hopes will make the web a better place.
With AOL's Project Devil, the company claims it wants to both revolutionize online display ads and the internet – an ambitious undertaking, to say the least. The ad format aims to make ads contribute to "the beauty and usefulness of the online environment" by putting content front and center to create more relevant – and overall cleaner – pages.
The ads are larger than standard display units, with just one slot offered per web page to help a brand standout. Online marketers can work with roughly the same amount of space on the internet they might have if they bought spots in magazines. For consumers navigating the web, the one-per-page units remove the clutter of multiple ads.
These large units place emphasis on content so AOL users can engage a brand and – ideally – understand why products or service relate to them. Project Devil ads can support text, images, video and social integration, as evidenced in a YouTube video about Project Devil.
"We've created an ad system that allows marketer to both highlight the product, explain what it is, what problem it solves and how it makes your life better," AOL Global ad sales head Jeff Levick told PaidContent.org. Plus, a long series of clicks are not required from consumers as ample information will appear within a Devil ad.
Marketers intrigued by the Devil ads (and how a cleaner search experience may make AOL more appealing to consumers) might also consider that display ads are driving digital ad spend. According to eMarketer, investment in display will grow by 8.2 percent in 2010 and by another 6.7 percent in 2011.
Still, businesses may benefit from waiting to see if search engines with broader appeal come out with similar content-driven display ad units. The latest comScore search rankings indicate that AOL accounted for just 2.2 percent of total core searches in August, while search market leaders Google and Yahoo accounted for 60.5 and 21.0 percent, respectively.