How to Choose the Best Digital Ad Formats

Since digital advertising first hit the scene (way back in 1994) there’s been a meteoric rise in market share and global spending. What started out as a clunky mess of pixelated messages, gradually (and then…rapidly) grew into a $325 billion industry, as of 2019.  

Over the past 2 decades, the scope, range, and reach of online advertising has grown to such an extent that Ad Networks (like us) are now processing up to 150,000,000 impressions in a single day (and counting). 

The first banner ad first appeared on (a division of Wired magazine) back in the day.

Adcash - Original Display Banner Ad - courtesy of hotwired.comImage courtesy of – First Display Banner (1994)

Strong words and a positive premonition of awesome things to come! While there are a lot of moving parts that drive the online advertising machine forward (building, tracking, optimizing, testing), we’ll throw some limelight on the creatives. 

Whilst numbers, stats, and metrics bring the full picture together, it’s the Ad Formats that truly have the power to make or break an online campaign. The formats are automated and optimized for a host of different regions, payout models, operating systems, and verticals/niches. 

Each with its own unique set of features and driving metrics that make it leave a lasting impression in the mind of the user, generating the best clickthroughs, conversions, signups, or any other impression that can be tracked and monetized. 

And, while there is a massive pool of online ad formats catering to all different sites and systems (Google, Facebook, Youtube, etc.), we’re going to swing the focus to the original precursor to online advertising as we know it today. Banner Ads (or, Display Advertising). 

Types of Digital Ad Formats

From Interstitial and Native, through to Banner, Push, and the high visibility Pop-Up, digital ads are a staple and lasting cog in the “.com” machine!

And, even as Adblocker technology and regulators crack down and limit the flow of ads to different websites, so too do online advertisers continue to refine their efforts and grow their traffic to optimum performance. This is our pick for the top digital ad formats in the market today. 

In-Page Push

Adcash - In-Page Push Ad Format

A relatively new addition to the Ad Tech scape, this leading format is the 2.0 version of the original Push Notification. 

These alert-like ads are meant to mimic the traditional push notification in their design. They are well-targeted, engaging, and less intrusive to the overall end-user experience. Their sole purpose is to increase the Advertisers’ onsite performance and the Publishers’ earnings, blending high-quality UX with market-tested returns. 

This format is red-hot, with loads of websites using it to monetize traffic, regardless of the content they’re running/hosting or the vertical they’re in. 

What sets them apart is that they are shown directly to a Publishers’ website (once the advertiser has won the bid). They also give advertisers multiple targeting options and the ability to reach new audiences. 

Pop-Under Ads

Adcash - Pop-Under Ad Format

Pop-under ads offer huge potential for advertisers to increase awareness and publishers to maximize their earning potential. 

By appearing behind the browser window of the end-user, the ads seamlessly integrate into the UX flow. Staying behind the scenes until the user logs out of what they’re doing. As the last thing the user sees before exiting the website, they also stay top of mind for the future. 

Pop-Unders are also an effective way to bring in the highest publisher RPMs. They can also be tailored and optimized according to their display frequency. Check out 5 Reasons Why Pop-Unders are so Effective.

Push Notifications

Adcash - Push Notification Ad Format

First coming to the game in and around 2009, Push Notifications are a strong monetizing mechanism in any digital marketers toolkit. 

Having been a format leader for 12 years and counting, Push Notifications have brought incredible results for both advertisers and publishers alike. 

These alert-like notification ads are directly delivered to the end user’s device or browser. They are known for their high visibility, intuitive engagement, and resulting click-through rates (CTR).

Push Notifications are also able to walk that fine line between being eye-catching enough to immediately grab attention while not being too intrusive and keeping the disruption to a minimum.  A bonus is that the format doesn’t take up any onsite space and can be hosted on any type of webpage seamlessly. 

Interstitial Ads

Adcash - Interstitial Ad Format

Known as a Cure for Banner Blindness, Interstitials appear while a website or page is loading. The time between browsing is used to reach the end-user with an immersive, tailored, and engaging ad experience.

The ad also has a hard-coded 5-second countdown window, meaning a guaranteed delay in exit times and a stronger potential to monetize with. 

For advertisers, Interstitials are an extremely versatile and cost-effective ad format, delivering maximum exposure in return for a minimal investment. 

By the same token, publishers are given a series of unique features and filters that enable them to create a better site experience (which ultimately comes with higher earnings).

With larger display frames and high-quality visuals, Interstitial Ads are designed for maximum visibility and reach. Choose between the full screen or overlay option and keep the composition of your site at an all-time high. 

Native Ads

Adcash - Native Ad Format

Launched in and around 2011, Native ads are still as effective today as they were 10 years ago. And, although there are theories that, in time the format will become outdated, for now at least Native ads remain an incredibly effective way for advertisers to promote products and services online. 

The format itself blends seamlessly with the surrounding onsite content, working tirelessly to generate high engagement rates and conversions along the way. 

When onsite, Native Ads are regarded as less intrusive and provide publishers with an easy way to boost their ad revenue. Not only does this equate to higher monetization, but the lack of UX interference keeps the audience on-site for longer and brings in new prospects along the way. 

These ads are able to blend perfectly with the audience experience. Matching the look, form, and function of the site that they appear on. 

Banner Ads

Adcash - Banner Ad Format

And last but not least, we’ve got the original Display Banner. Known for their versatility, delivery rates, and strong conversions, Display Ads can be broken into three core sections. These being… 

Skyscrapers: A tall and narrow banner type, available for both desktop and mobile web. Typically placed to the side of the page content, for higher exposure and increased visibility. 

Rectangles: Compatible with almost any operating system in the world, when it comes to digital advertising, the rectangle banner is what you first think of.

Versatile, flexible, and constantly adapting to the requirements of the web page, Rectangles are mobile-web compatible and by far the most commonly utilized format. 

Leaderboards: This top-performing Display Banner is usually placed at the top of a webpage for maximum visibility and reach. These are more often than not the first ad a website user sees when first logging onto the site.

Appearing above the content rollout, the formats are uniquely eye-catching, larger than life, and easy to read. 

Whatever your campaign or monetization strategy, there are plenty of digital ad formats to boost your strategy with. The challenge isn’t a lack of availability, but rather knowing which strategies to deploy to make the most of the chosen format. Here are 3 of them!

Try Diversifying your onsite Ad Formats

As an Advertiser, when you work with ad networks, you face bidding mechanics and publisher restrictions. So using multiple ad formats (and AB testing your results) will help maximize your reach.

The more popular the format is among advertisers, the higher you need to bid in order to increase the likelihood of reaching your target audience.

Strike a balance between allocating your budget to pricier variants, whilst also spreading it across multiple sources. Some publishers restrict specific formats, such as interruptive types.

What if a publisher’s traffic is your target audience, but the formats you deploy are restricted?

The devices that your campaigns will be viewed from should also factor into your campaign strategy. A large percentage of your audience will probably view your ads from their mobile devices, which in turn, will influence the mechanics and the resulting effectiveness of the format.

Monitor your disruption tolerance. 

As a Publisher, Your primary consideration should be to take charge of your traffic’s onsite experience. Generally, the higher the value of your onsite content, the higher your users’ disruption tolerance tends to be.

If you’ve ever visited an unregulated streaming site or similar, you were likely bombarded with dozens of site-under ads. The reason being, site under’s typically have the highest payouts. As a rule, the higher the user disruption, the higher the payout will be. A strategy like this can only work if the content’s value outweighs the poor/average user experience. 

But, as a website owner, your onsite content and resulting monetization strategy will most likely be completely different. You need to analyze your content and UX in detail, finding the balance between payout potential and the end-user experience. 

And lastly, follow your own audience/traffic source

There is a wealth of data and a wave of information available today for both publishers and advertisers to gain the upper hand in this constantly shifting and developing space. That said, these trends can’t account for the unique factors that affect your audience or traffic.

You may be able to use that information to make initial choices about what digital ad formats to use, but you’ll need to track them to understand what effect they’re having. Whether advertiser or publisher, you must understand the overall trends, follow feedback, and adjust your strategy accordingly…

All the best for the road ahead, find your format and let us know in the comments below and… see you on the other side of awesome! 


Bye for now!

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