Digital Marketing Measurement

Display advertising: display ads and rich-media ads

A few posts ago I talked about the POEM categorization that distinguishes between paid, owned and earned media, in relation to digital marketing. I mentioned that display advertising is one of the main samples of paid media types in the digital world. I’ll try here to cast an overview of display advertising.

In terms of paid online advertising, generally 3 main categories of ad types are mentioned: rich-media ads, display ads and text ads.

Text ads are typically associated with Google AdWords, Google’s main online advertising product, which – despite nowadays offering also display and rich-media formats – has traditionally built its success on contextually targeted textual ads. I’ll talk about AdWords and text ads more extensively in a later post.

Display ads – or banner ads – usually combine text with a graphic element. They can be static or animated (e.g. flash animations). Typically the way a user interacts with a display ad is basic and straightforward: when users click on a display ad, they get to a landing page on the advertiser’s site (destination URL).

There are many different banner ad formats in use, with different sizes.

To some extent ad sizes have been standardized by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the most popular can be identified in the following formats:

–       Leaderboard: 728×90 px

–       Skyscraper: 160×600 px

–       Island or MPU (Mid Page Unit): 300×250 px

Rich media ads are instead more advanced from a design and user interaction point of view. They can combine multimedia elements such as video, sound and animation, as well as allowing much higher user interactivity.

With rich media ads you can have fancier animation effects – such as peel-back (or peel-away) ads, floating ads, expanding ads and so on – but also more complex user interaction: you can, for instance, let users play a game or input data through the ad itself.

The possibilities at disposal of graphic designers and developers’ inventiveness are vast.

Generally rich media ads are catchier and more engaging from a user perspective and tend to have higher CTR (Click Through Rate, I’ll talk about this soon in another post) than traditional banner ads.

On the flipside though, rich media ads are heavier to load and therefore require more bandwidth and might be less accessible to users with slow Internet connections; also, they’re also more likely to incur problems of browser incompatibility or not work as intended.

Another popular ad format is the homepage takeover (see same examples here), which can have very high impact but also be quite intrusive or disorientating for users.

Site section sponsorships (e.g a mini-site hosted to the advertiser on the publisher site) are another typical advertising solution, conceptually similar to one or a few pages bought by an advertiser on a newspaper or a magazine in offline advertising.

With the increasing popularity of catch-up TV, another common ad format is pre-roll and mid-roll ads (which play before or during TV programs).


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