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AOL’s Project Devil launches in-ad e-commerce function

A year after launching its flashy Project Devil ad service, AOL today announced plans for a new feature that promises to help performance marketers circumvent the dreaded click-through (or, in many cases, lack thereof).

Project Devil will now offer consumers the ability to complete e-commerce transactions within the ad itself.

Sure, even the most guileless Internet surfer would hesitate before turning over credit card information to a banner ad. That’s why the ads simply pull content directly from advertisers’ e-commerce sites.

The branding, technology, and transaction remain exactly as they would on the advertiser’s own site. But with the help of an HTML5 overlay, users can opt to expand an ad to nearly full screen without leaving the page they’re surfing. The expanded ad displays the page of whichever product they’ve chosen. It’s essentially a click-through workaround, easing “friction” caused by users leaving a page of content. Instead, they shop through an overlay ad pulled directly from the advertiser’s website.

The company has not tested the format with any of its advertisers but hopes it will be popular as the holiday season nears, particularly with apparel and auto retailers. 

Project Devil is known best for its large-format ads, up to four times as big as normal display ads. The ads feature interactive applications ranging from videos and maps to catalog slideshows and movie listings. Currently, 22 apps are available; Greg Rogers, head of AOL’s Pictela, said the company plans to continue adding new utilities.

Next up on the to-do list? Interconnecting the apps within a single ad unit (there can be up three). The ads will eventually feed off of each others’ intelligence, not unlike robots. Or, in this case, devils.