AOL Unveils Project Devil


AOL presented Project Devil to a packed house at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual Mixx conference on Monday (Sept. 27) in New York. It was appropriate, as the theme of the day was online ad creative—or put more succinctly, how do we get display advertising to improve? In fact, the IAB itself announced a formal competition to find the next great ad unit.
Microsoft threw its hat into the ring with DeepZoom, an impressive new ad technology which allows users to zoom in and out on images. For example, during a demonstration held for reporters, executives used DeepZoom to zero in on the image of a man’s face, so close that the pores on his forehead were visible.

As for just how DeepZoom will be used practically in a banner ad—it’s too early. But Microsoft executives believe that products like this will help raise the bar.
“I’m very bullish on display,” said Darren Huston, corporate vp, global consumer and online, Microsoft.
During a keynote presentation later in the day, former Microsoft executive Blake Irving, who is now evp and chief products officer for Yahoo, complained that display ads are still not as targeted as they should be, despite all the data that is currently available to advertisers. “The canvas is changing, but it’s still not personal,” he said. “I still get flashing mortgage ads when I’m not looking for a mortgage.”

But would Yahoo ever turn to rival AOL for help? Levick and Armstrong don’t see any reason why. In testing, Levick said that consumers spent 18 percent more time with Devil ads than basic 300x250 banners. Those sort of engagement numbers would seem to attract lots of competing publishers.

“We are reeducating consumers for how the Internet and ads should look,” he said. “That changes the conversation about this medium.”