Guide to Smartphone Advertising Formats

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Mobile display ad formats are similar to display ad formats on the PC, and they incorporate many of the same characteristics. With the emergence of smartphones, many of the more dynamic formats transitioned over to mobile devices. The IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) has provided guidelines for mobile banner ad formats for more than ten years. What follows is a guide to the most popular smartphone formats:

Mobile Banner Ads and Interstitials

Standard Mobile Banner

Description:
A standard smartphone banner ad is 320×48 pixels, which works exactly the same as a standard web banner ad. A smartphone banner ad can appear at the top or bottom of your device’s screen. It can be inside a mobile app or on a mobile web page. This standard format does not support rich media.

Use Case:
This mobile ad format is too small to deliver a message more complex than a logo and a tagline. It has the greatest reach, the most targeting options, and is the least expensive of all formats. Also, it can be purchased in small amounts, which makes it accessible to advertisers of all sizes.

Mobile Adhesion Banner

Description:
A mobile adhesion banner ad is a banner ad that appears at the top or bottom of the screen, and it’s scroll proof. This means that as the user scrolls up or down, the banner ad stays locked at its initial position.

Use Case:
It’s great for mobile websites or apps with long scrolling pages. It also eliminates advertiser concerns over ad viewability. However, depending on the size of the banner, it is prone to accidental clicks.

Mobile Expandable Banner

Description:
A mobile expandable banner is a standard mobile banner ad, that when tapped by the user, brings up a full-screen ad. There are also formats that only use half of the device screen as well.

Use Case:
Since it uses more display real estate, it is popular for rich media and video delivery. The other benefit of expandable banners is all engagement post expansion is very deliberate.

Mobile Pull Banner

Description:
A mobile pull banner ad is similar to the expandable banner ad. It is a banner ad at the top or bottom of the screen that a user can pull to see the entire ad. Once expanded, the user is exposed to a large content area that can deliver rich media, video, or a large message.

Use Case:
The benefits are almost identical to the expandable banners. The novelty aspect of how it expands, can increase engagement and make for more interesting creative executions.

Mobile Slider Banner

Description:
The mobile slider banner ad appears on top or bottom of the screen, that when a user slides left or right, the full ad appears. The format stays locked in place like the adhesion banner, but can show a full screen ad like the pull or expandable mobile banners.

Use Case:
The mobile slider format is very similar to the expandable or pull banner. It requires some form of user engagement in order to show the full ad. However, unlike the expandable, the user must slide the ad across their screen in order to see the rich media, which reduces accidental impressions.

Mobile Filmstrip Ad

Description:
The mobile filmstrip ad is a new ad format that the IAB introduced last year. The mobile filmstrip ad is a scrolling, multi-panel ad designed to allow for storytelling.

Use Case:
This ad format works very well for advertisers who need to provide a lot information on a particular product. These ads are highly engaging and have a very editorial feel when viewed on a tablet.

Full Page Mobile Flex Ad

Description:
A flex ad unit is another new ad format the IAB introduced last year. This unit takes up the entire screen and automatically adapts regardless of screen size. This ad unit can be launched from one of the banner ad formats listed above, or auto-launched based on user actions.

Use Case:
Full page flex ads are an attempt to bring responsive design to mobile advertising. The benefit of this approach is the advertiser only has to create one creative, which will work across multiple devices.

Mobile Interstitial Ads

Description:
Interstitial ads are an ad format that takes over the entire screen of a mobile device. Full-screen interstitials can contain a static image, rich media and even video. They generally appear in-between user actions in a mobile game or app.

Use Case:
Interstitial ads are a great way to drive engagement for advertisers. They provide a large canvas that makes it easy to deliver an advertiser’s message.

Mobile Messaging Marketing Formats

Mobile messaging has been a popular method of marketing since the mobile phone’s popularity with consumers surged in the 1990s. Many mobile services worked exclusively with SMS and MMS. Push notifications have increased in popularity as the messaging format of choice for marketers targeting smartphone users. The three most popular messaging formats are:

Push Notifications

Description:
A push notification is a message that an app’s owner sends directly to a user’s smartphone. While similar to SMS or MMS, push notifications use a different technology and don’t require the user to pay for each message.

Use Case:
Push notifications are directly integrated with the app, making the user experience better. They can also drive users to a specific section in a smartphone app, such as a product page.

SMS Messaging

Description:
SMS, or what is more popularly known as a text message, are short 130-character messages that can be sent to both feature phones and smartphones.

Use Case:
The ubiquity of SMS makes it popular with some marketers who want to reach the widest number of mobile users. SMS messages can also contain a URL or code that can be used to send confirmation messages for specific mobile services.

MMS Messaging

Description:
MMS is a form of text message that also support images and video. It is supported by a wide range feature phones and smartphones.

Use Case:
MMS is still popular for some marketers who want to send coupons or other messages to a wide variety of users, not just on smartphones.

Mobile Native Ads

Mobile Native Ads are an emerging ad format in which the ad adapts to the app’s user experience. This  allows advertisers to show ads within the context of an app. Currently, there are no standards regarding native ads, but the IAB is looking to publish a guideline later this year. The major publishers who currently support mobile native ads are:

Facebook

Description:
Facebook pioneered the native format. Thier app install product is simple and has a lot of targeting options based on Facebook data.

Use Case:
Facebook mobile app install ads are great for marketers and advertisers who want to reach a broad range of consumers. It can also leverage existing Facebook marketing initiatives.

Twitter

Description:
The Twitter native format, while similar to Facebook, has some significant differences. Twitter’s app cards allow app downloads from the twitter stream. Targeting is based on hashtags, followers and other data sets specific to Twitter.

Use Case:
Twitter app cards work well for advertisers that need to target niche audiences in real time.

Instagram

Description:
Instagram native ads are brand new and they currently only allow promoted posts. Since Instagram is primarily photo sharing, all sponsored content requires images.

Use Case:
WIth no lead generation or app install product, instagram is a great choice for brand advertisers who want to increase their Instagram following. Expect more ad products to be released later this year.

Mobile Video Ads

Mobile video formats are generally pre-roll ads that appear before a video in an streaming app or as a full-screen interstitials. Video ads have increased in popularity recently and are great for brands who want to get more reach with a television spot. The most popular formats are:

15 or 30 Second Pre-roll

Description:
Pre-roll videos are very common within apps and streaming services. These are 15 or 30 second slots that are shown before the content the user wants to watch. Some publishers, such as YouTube, allow users to opt out of the pre-roll ad after 5 seconds.

Use Case:
This format is popular for television advertisers who want to get more reach for a TV spot. It’s becoming more and more popular with digital advertisers who want to promote their video content.

Mid-roll

Description:
Mid-roll ads appear in the middle of the content the user is watching. These ads are also 15 or  30 seconds, and can be up to a minute long.

Use Case:
These ad are popular with streaming services that show full movies or TV shows. It is the ideal format for advertisers with compelling long form video content such as a movie trailer.

Post-roll:

Description:
Post-roll ads are 15 or 30 second ads that play after the user’s content is finished. This advertising format never really gained much traction, since engagement was very low.

Use Case:
This format is still available from some streaming services and can work with compelling long form content.

Mobile Paid Search Ads

Paid search ads have been extremely popular on the PC and have gained significant traction on mobile. The three major forms of search advertising for mobile are:

Google AdWords

Description:
The largest of the paid search vendors. Google AdWords on mobile allows for search ads above the organic search results. With Google’s “enhanced campaigns,” local search is prioritized over other search results.

Use Case:
Google AdWords on mobile works well for mobile specific searches that incorporate location data or other mobile context data.

Bing Ads

Description:
Bing ads are very similar to Google AdWords in almost every way. They do have lower CPCs than Google, but that is due to less competition.

Use Case:
Very similar to Google AdWords, Big Ads are great for advertisers who are successful with local search and need maximum coverage.

Search Syndication

Description:
Paid search syndication incorporates results from Google and Bing into the search results on third party sites. These sites are called syndicate partners and can include major media properties and large retailers.

Use Case:
Paid search syndication can be a very attractive option for brand advertisers who need to maximize their search footprint.