AOL Launches New Premium Ad Formats

Big display units are the latest products of Project Devil initiative

These aren't your grandparents' display ads.

AOL is getting ahead of the Advertising Week bustle by introducing four new premium ad formats today. The new products include a wallpaper/takeover unit that transforms as you scroll; a "loft" unit that travels down a Web page and opens up to display video or other multimedia elements; a multi-screen unit built with HTML 5; and a proprietary version of a IAB's Mobile Rising Stars unit.

These formats are in the spirit of the company's Project Devil initiative, introduced in 2010, which sought to emphasize big, beautiful display ads that can anchor a page.

"There's a lot that we're doing that is very innovative in terms of thinking about what formerly was 300×250 real estate," said Erika Nardini, chief marketing officer for AOL Advertising. "Brands who are looking to create connections with consumers and looking to drive impact are still hungry for this type of innovation and exploration around the ad format."

Kraft and Lexus have signed on as launch sponsors. Kraft is utilizing the loft, reactive wallpaper and cross-screen units for a Jello campaign on AOL's Kitchen Daily, as well as The Huffington Post's women, style, celebrity, entertainment and parents verticals. "We think all three are a great fit with our campaign," said Julie Fleischer, director of media and consumer engagement at Kraft Foods.

Lexus media manager Teri Hill said in a statement that the brand was the launch partner when AOL rolled out its original Devil unit, and today Lexus is utilizing the HTML 5 unit. "This new ad unit's focus on design and innovation mirrors Lexus's key brand attributes of performance and style, while also supporting the notion of Lexus as a more modern, youthful and emotionally-resonant brand," Hill said.

It seems brands still see the value in being the first to sign on to a new ad unit. "The phrase 'never been done before' [is] still super paramount in the digital marketing ecosystem," Nardini said.

AOL has made a big bet on programmatic advertising, but for the time being these formats will be sold on a case-by-case basis. And while the new ads will initially be available only on AOL's owned and operated sites, the goal is to eventually shop them out to other publishers, Nardini said.

Here's a screen shot of Kraft employing the loft unit on Kitchen Daily: