Advertising on mobile devices has taken many forms since its emergence in the late 1990’s. Today, with so many formats, platforms, and devices available, it’s easy for advertisers to get overwhelmed. Many have lots of questions. Should they use native ads or banner ads? Is SMS advertising dead?
Each ad format has its own strengths and weaknesses, and there really is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all ad format. To help marketers and advertisers navigate through all of this, we put together this Guide to Smartphone Ad Formats.
This eBook is not just for marketers and advertisers. Publishers who monetize their apps with advertising will also find this guide useful. Our end goal is to provide information and thought leadership that will help both publishers and advertisers. By providing an in-depth analysis of all of the available options, publishers and advertisers will be able to make informed decisions about the right options for each of them.
Gregory Kennedy and Shawn Aguilar
Table of Contents
Display Ad Formats
Standard Mobile Banner 3
Mobile Adhesion Banner 4
Mobile Expandable Banner 5
Mobile Pull Banner 6
Mobile Slider Banner 7
Mobile Film Strip 8
Full Page Mobile Flex Ad 9
Mobile Interstitial Ads 10
Mobile Messaging Marketing Formats
Push Notifications 12 SMS Messaging 13
MMS Messaging 14
Mobile Video Ads
Paid Search Ads
Google Adwords 24
Bing Ads 25
Search Syndication 26
Guide to Smartphone Display Ad Formats
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. What follows is a guide to the most popular smartphone formats.
Mobile Ad Formats 3
Standard Mobile Banner
A standard smartphone banner ad is 320x50 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.
Mobile Ad Formats 4
Mobile Adhesion Banner
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.
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.
Banner has a locked
position on page while
Mobile Ad Formats 5
Mobile Expandable Banner
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.
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 Ad Formats 6
Mobile Pull Banner
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.
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 Ad Formats 7
Mobile Slider Banner
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.
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
Mobile Ad Formats 8
Mobile Filmstrip Ad
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.
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.
Mobile Ad Formats 9
Full Page Mobile Flex Ad
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.
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 Ad Formats 10
Mobile Interstitial Ads
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.
Interstitial ads are a great way to drive engagement for advertisers.
They provide a large canvas that makes it easy to deliver an
Mobile Ad Formats 11
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, SMS Messaging, and
Mobile Ad Formats 12
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
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.
Mobile Ad Formats 13
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
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.
Mobile Ad Formats 14
MMS is a form of text message that also support images and video. It is
supported by a wide range feature phones and smartphones.
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 Ad Formats 15
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, Twitter, and
Mobile Ad Formats 16
Facebook pioneered the native format. Thier app install product is simple
and has a lot of targeting options based on Facebook data.
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.
-- advertisers who want to promote their video content.
-- This format is still available from some streaming services
and can work with compelling long form content.
-- incorporate location data or other mobile context data.
-- partners and can include major media properties and large
Mobile Ad Formats 17
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.
Twitter app cards work well for advertisers that need to target niche
audiences in real time.
Mobile Ad Formats 18
Instagram native ads are brand new and they currently only allow
promoted posts. Since Instagram is primarily photo sharing, all
sponsored content requires images.
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: Pre-roll, Mid-roll and Post-roll.
Mobile Ad Formats 20
15 or 30 Second Pre-roll
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 .
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.
Users desired content
Call to actions lets
2 user skip ad.
Mobile Ad Formats 21
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.
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.
Ads are displayed at certain intervals
throughout the users desired video.
Mobile Ad Formats 22
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.
This format is still available from some streaming services and can work
with compelling long form content.
Ad plays after users
Mobile Ad Formats 23
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, Bing Ads, and Search Syndication.
Mobile Ad Formats 24
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
Google AdWords on mobile works well for mobile specific searches that
incorporate location data or other mobile context data.
Mobile Ad Formats 25
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.
Very similar to Google AdWords, Bing Ads are great for advertisers who
are successful with local search and need maximum coverage.
Mobile Ad Formats 26
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.
Paid search syndication can be a very attractive option for brand
advertisers who need to maximize their search footprint.
Mobile Ad Formats 27
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