As digital advertising and marketing strategies continue to evolve, it is important for marketing and creative teams to understand all their digital ad options.
There is no doubt that digital advertising and marketing strategies have changed the way marketers are reaching customers. More and more marketing teams are slashing their traditional media buys and opting for a lower cost digital alternative. But in the wild west of digital advertising, there are a lot of unanswered questions, confusion, and unclear guidelines for the creative teams that are charged with delivering these new products. Moreover, when you dig deep into the marketing strategies driving the digital explosion, you’re likely to find confusion there as well.
Types of Digital Ads
First, let’s define the digital options. Here are the main digital platforms that are being used to reach consumers:
Like a print ad, only they appear on websites, social media, and during searches. They can pop up, stay up, and are highly targeted to a user’s search patterns. Banner ads are small rectangular images, which vary in size and orientation. Larger, more prominently placed ads cost more, while smaller ads tend to cost less. These ads are versatile and can be combined with programmatic testing. These ads typically rotate automatically with different variations on the messages and imagery to help the advertiser determine which copy/image combination generates the highest response. When clicked, these ads direct the user to a landing page built specifically for that ad campaign. The most common banner ad sizes are:
- 486 x 60 Pixels (Full Banner)
- 392 x 72 Pixels (Full Banner with Vertical Navigation Bar)
- 234 x 60 Pixels (Half Banner)
- 120 x 240 Pixels (Vertical Banner)
- 125 x 125 Pixels (Square Button)
- 120 x 90 Pixels (Button 1)
- 120 x 60 Pixels (Button 2)
- 88 x 31 Pixels (Micro Button)
The full banner (468 x 60) is by far the most popular, but you will see all these variations all over the Web. These are not the only banner ad shapes and sizes, either, but they are a good representation of the range of common banner ads. There is no universal file-size constraint for banner ads, but most websites impose their own limits on memory size, usually something like 12K to 16K. The best use for banner ads is reach and awareness, especially for users actively considering a purchase.
Like a TV ad, only on digital platforms. Pre-roll ads can be any length from 10 to 45 seconds. Most traditional media buys are for 15 or 30 seconds, but more and more of my customers are asking for 10-second versions as well. These video ads appear on searches, websites, social media, and like banner ads, they link to the advertiser’s website, or a landing page specifically designed for the product or service the video ad represents. While many advertisers simply turn their TV spot into a pre-roll ad by adding a “click here” button to the end screen, they differ from their TV “sisters” in one very important way: users can hit “SKIP” after 5 seconds. Because of this, pre-roll ads need to be attention-grabbing and get the advertiser’s name out there quickly just in case the ad gets skipped after 5 seconds. The good news for pre-roll ads is that you usually only pay for the ad if it is watched past the SKIP mark. The best use of 15 or 30-second pre-roll ads is for deep-level engagement or direct response advertising, in combination with a traditional TV buy.
To get around the “SKIP” issue, and to provide a better user experience (who wants to have their 45-second clip interrupted with a 30-second ad?) platforms like YouTube began offering 6-second bumper ad options. Now a year later, it’s looking like bumper ads are a success for everyone involved. The smartest use of bumper ads is to complement your longer form video ads and really hit hard on one particular message. Rather than cram 3 messages into a 6-second ad, for example, advertisers create 3 unique 6-second bumper ads. The trick is to make them really stand out with sound design, humor, and attention-getting graphics. Where a pre-roll video ad is designed to engage the consumer in a longer form story, the bumper ad is designed to amplify an existing message, or tease an upcoming campaign, launch, etc. The best use of bumper ads appears to be reach and awareness.
Remember that this technology is still rather new for most marketers and stakeholders. When a client asks for a pre-roll spot, for example, they could actually mean a bumper ad. When they ask for a banner ad or digital video ad, they may mean a pre-roll video ad. Now more than ever it’s really important to dig deep and ask probing questions when given a request for a digital ad. In addition to asking what type of digital ad your client wants, be sure to also ask what their goal is for the ad. The real win for a digital campaign is to combine all the options in conjunction with traditional media like TV and radio into an omnichannel campaign to increase frequency and reach without the heavy ad spend you’d have to buy if you were using traditional alone.
Creative Tips for Making Your Digital Ads Work Harder
- Know Where It’s Running – Always ask where these ads are going. Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites all have unique sizes, orientations and animation rules. Make sure you know where the ad is running and what the rules are for that space.
- Make Pre-Roll Ads Work Without Sound – for social media sites, often the sound will be down or muted so your pre-roll ad has to be impactful enough with just video to grab attention and tell the story.
- Even Banner Ads Can Move – You get better results most often by having some animation in your ads, so incorporate movement whenever possible in your banner ads. Plus, the real advantage of digital advertising is the ability to test results quickly, so take advantage of that and adjust your messaging and images based on quick testing.
- Humor, Music, and Targeted Copy Make a Difference – When you only have a few seconds to get someone’s attention, you have to be creative. That’s one of the things I love the most about bumper ads. If you can tell your story in 6 seconds and get someone’s attention, you’ve done something pretty outstanding. Think of it as a creative challenge and have fun with it.