Extending its Project Devil initiative to mobile devices, AOL Wednesday unveiled premium display ad formats for smartphones and tablets similar to those it rolled out for the desktop 18 months ago. The Devil ads, which can be customized with more than 20 different content elements, were designed to bring TV-like visual and emotional impact to online advertising.
Now AOL wants to bring the same dynamic ad elements to mobile screens.
At launch, AOL is offering five types of applications for the mobile ads, powered by its Pictela content management technology. These include the photo gallery, which can show up to nine images in a carousel; a video gallery; a brand’s own content feed; and separate feeds for Facebook and Twitter. More apps will be introduced in the coming weeks.
AOL is debuting the new ad units for the two dominant mobile platforms -- Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android -- and will sell the ads to run across its own mobile sites and apps, which had an audience of 28 million as of March, according to comScore. That makes AOL the eighth-ranked mobile property behind sites such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo.
Adjustments have been made for smaller screen sizes. Devil ads in mobile initially displayed as standard rectangles across the top or bottom of the screen rather than commanding a good chunk of real estate, as on the desktop.
That means they’re not immediately as eye-catching.
But each unit shows up to three icons related to different types of applications, mirroring the characteristic three-panel display of the traditional Devil unit. A demo ad on the Daily Finance site for Moviefone, for instance, contains separate apps for viewing images, video or a Facebook feed. Clicking on any of the icons expands the ad full-screen and allows users to swipe across or tap the screen to interact with content.
While the extension of Devil ads to mobile is a logical move for AOL, it won’t necessarily galvanize its emerging mobile ad business if the desktop is any guide. The units have not consistently bolstered the company’s online premium ad sales, which declined in the first quarter from a year ago.
Last year, Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter noted that the Devil units weren’t having “the expected traction” with the company’s brand advertisers.
Great news for mobile creative platforms like AdXcel (full disclosure: an SPC client), Sprout, and Celtra who I might hedge are a few steps ahead of AOL when it comes to high impact ads that are data-enabled, dynamic, and built for execution within the mobile environment.