Posted September 21, 2011 5:00 pm by with 0 comments

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AOL’s Project Devil was supposed to be the key to the company’s future financial success but things haven’t gone as well as they’d hoped. Everyone likes the bold, interactive ad units but not everyone is in a position to fork over the kind of cash it takes to run one.

The big boys like Ford, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s are using the program, and AOL’s Tim Armstrong says that the response to the ads themselves has been good. He says folks stay on Project Devil ads almost four times longer than the industry average. In this case, time really is money, because longer engagement times usually result in conversions and better brand recognition.

Now, AOL is trying something even more spectacular — adding e-commerce to ads. In this scenario, a Project Devil ad would expand outward to include a version of a product’s sale page from the actual website.The ad can be opened to full-screen without ever leaving the website you came in on and it stays that way, even as you go through the process of actually buying the item.

Getting from “I want” to “I bought”

Here’s an example. Say you’re reading the entertainment news on AOL when you hit an ad for Best Buy that shows the big DVD releases for this week. Gotta have Johnny Depp’s latest film. Click the DVD and the ad expands to show all the details. Action, adventure and fun outtakes, too! Even a video clip to get you really excited. Want to buy it? Just click and complete the transaction. When you’re done. Close the window and finish reading all about who is dating who in Hollywood.

The idea is to streamline the steps between “I want” and “I bought.” This is important because potential customers fall away with every additional move they have to make. The quicker you can get them from point A to point B, the higher your conversion rate will be. Don’t give them a chance to change their mind and don’t allow them to be distracting by having to move from one website to another.

It’s pretty brilliant concept if they can sell it. Problem number one is the cost. Again, it’s likely that only the big boys will be able to afford this kind of ad. And since it will be specific to AOL, it’s not like they can lower their cost by placing the ad all over the web.

The second problem is on the consumer side. People are already wary of sending their credit card information out into cyberspace and this feels even less secure. It’s not, because even though you feel like you’re still on the original page, AOL says the transaction will actually be happening on the advertiser’s site. Meaning, it’s no different than actually going to that site and buying the product.

Overall, it’s good to see AOL trying to shake up the banner ad and make it more relevant to the way we navigate the web. It also feels akin to the way apps run on a tablet. In other words, Project Devil is the future, now they just have to find away to make it affordable so everyone can participate in the program.