Best Mobile Ad Formats for Display Advertising Campaigns

Wherever you go, your mobile device follows. Inevitably, mobile has become so ingrained in our lifestyle than any other medias.

As reported in Mary Meeker’s report mid of this year,

  • 29% Of people’s daily screen time are spent looking at smartphones
  • Global mobile data traffic grew nearly 70%
  • Mobile commands 24% of media time spent in the US
  • Mobile media time spent  is higher at 51% compared to desktop in the US

Consequently, mobile advertising is significant for brands and advertisers (when it is done right). So, it’s expected for many to wonder: What are the best mobile ad formats for my marketing campaigns?

Let’s face it. There’s no such thing as a universal ad format. So instead, let’s look at the available types of ads for mobile—traditional and trending. Understand how each works. Learn how to select the best mobile ad format to monetize your mobile marketing campaign.


  1. Interstitial Ads

    mobile ad format interstitials
    Samples of mobile interstitial ads: (1) video interstitial (or videostitial) best for branding, (2) with image hotspots to show product info when tapped, and (3) with image slider enable users to compare effects of the featured product

    Interstitial ads are visuals that cover the entire mobile screen at the size of 320 x 480 pixels. This is the most popular size as it allows for more context, clearer call-to-action, and more creative content like videos, store locator, and many others. This allows you to encourage more engagement hence lifting your SAR for better brand performance and recall.

    Here are the interstitial sizes available but not limited to the following.

    ad format interstitial size

    It usually, appears at crucial moments during navigation, like the opening, browsing between pages, or in between games. It requires user action; typically click a button to close the ad or swipe to navigate to the desired content.

    Interstitials are adopted straight from the web that fits perfectly on mobile. Its ability to grab a user’s undivided attention; especially fullscreen on mobile is incredibly appealing to advertisers. You don’t have to worry about mistaken click-throughs, as it only appears in between pages while an app is in use.

    Advertisers can create beautiful and engaging content with high-quality artwork and compelling copy. This can reduce the disruption factor for users.

    According to many experts, interstitial ads are best placed within games with levels. The natural break in gameplay between levels allows interstitials to appear unobtrusively. It is advised not to interrupt user experience. So, publishers should not push an interstitial ad in the middle of a game.

    Interstitials’ performance has been reportedly good. InMobi’s interstitials have a 2-3x higher click-through rates compared to banner ads. On overall ad spending for interstitial is high. According to AppFlood, interstitial mobile ads accounted for 70% of mobile ad revenue globally in Q1 2014.


    • Larger space
    • Broader message, exposure and memorization rate
    • Visually compelling
    • High impressions
    • High conversions
    • Can offer animated and interactive rich media content


    • Can be highly intrusive—in the event of bad placement
    • High CTR may result from the difficulty to close the interstitial
    • Requires more design work and thought on proper placement
    • Will affect search engine rankings in Google (credit to, Malaysian SEO company)
  2. Video Ads

    mobile ad format video ads

    Samples of mobile video ads in different display modes for varying purposes: (1) autoplay video, (2) square framed video, and (3) verticle video with an image overlay.

    In-App video advertising has been steadily gaining traction. As mobile becomes the dominant ad channels, advertisers are devoting their ad spends on video. According to VentureBeat, mobile video ad spending triples in 2015, where global ad spend on video rise to 71 percent of total mobile ad spend in Q3. The expanse of video ads reach on mobile is mind-blowing. The engagement rate is high. This makes them suitable for advertising games and well-established brands.

    A typical video ad runs 15- or 30-second when user tap to play. While some advertisers invest in higher budget video ads that play automatically when in view. Video on mobile is pretty appealing. Unlike desktops, users are focused on video ads whenever they are engaged with the device. They don’t get to multitask around a video ad.

    However, advertisers must be careful as it may backfire. A poorly made ad or placed inappropriately will frustrate users and cause them to close the app. So it’s important that video ads should be short (as mentioned in 15 to 30 seconds range). And, as we’ve said with previous formats, ad placements must be at a natural break in users’ app journey.

    Brand advertisers should ensure that there’s an enticing screen grab to encourage users to play the video. They should think creatively when introducing a video to the users. Given its natural tendency to disrupt the user experience, advertisers should consider only reveal the video after a banner is clicked. Also, to minimize the risk of frustrating the users, autoplay video should be fired without audio and allow users the option to turn it on or off.

    Mobile video play rates are higher on in-app (14.0%) compare to mobile web (8.3%). While video completion rates are slightly higher on in-app (53.3%) compare to mobile web (52.7%).


    • Users like them
    • Focuses attention
    • Good for brands


    • Expensive to produce
    • Can be intrusive when poorly placed
    • You cannot force viewership—if one has seen it before, chances are they wouldn’t want to watch it again. However, if your ad is fantastic, you might get more viewings. So best to allow users to share that video and hope for viral social shares.


  3. Expandable Ads

    mobile ad format expandable

    Sample mobile expandable ad with a combination of rich media like video, photo gallery, and social feeds.

    The expandable ad is a type of rich media ad, but can be seen as a combination of banner and interstitial ads. It typically starts with a 320×50 pixels banner (teaser banner) and increases in size usually at 320×480 pixels following a tap. The expanded ad offers a large area for advertisers to deliver the intended advertising message. It is less intrusive as the expansion appears right on the app itself, rather than bringing users to a landing page.

    Here are other expandable ad sizes you can explore.

    mobile ad format expandable ad size

    Expandable ads are a high-impact marketing strategy that helps to overcome banner blindness. Some advertising experts advised limiting the frequency of expandable ads on a website. Their rationale was that most visitors would likely tolerate occasional expanding ads that disrupt their experience. Also, if they encounter this constantly, it may get them frustrated.

    However, on mobile apps, expandable gives different ad experience. Users are more likely to accept a full screen expanded ad on their app than being led to a website. Where it will disrupt the activities on the app itself. As rich media ads are designed to catch the eye and engage this may also pose an extremely intrusive threat. Therefore, it is imperative that the creative must not go overboard.

    You may think that implementing high impact ad units may seem like an enormous task. But, it’s quite straightforward. Many ad platforms accept expandable ad units as third party tags. Meaning the process of implementing this is substantially similar to other banner ads. As explained in our previous article on HTML5 ads, you’ll just need to get reliable vendors to do the rendering during ad serving.

    A study from John Lewis and the IAB found those exposed to expandable banners were 25% more likely to recall an ad than those exposed to static banners.


    • More information opportunities with the expansion unit—i.e. videos and interactivity
    • Obtain valuable tractions—through action-driven expansion where you can measure the number of times users view the ad content


    • May frustrate inexperienced users—as they missed the option to close the ad
  4. Standard Banner Ads

    mobile ad format banner

    mobile ad format banner

    mobile ad format banner

    Samples of standard banner ads with practical design and clear call-to-actions

    The 320 x 50 or 300×50 pixels banner ads; static or animated, usually clutter the top or bottom of the screen. It is the most popular advertising format to date. Before, these ads produced mostly ineffective, accidental clicks. Now, it can be rather effective if implemented in the proper context. It is passive, non-intrusive and does not interrupt the user experience.

    Unfortunately, this also makes it easily fall into “banner blindness” (a syndrome where users developed an unconscious resistance to the banner).

    The success of banner ads pretty much depends on brand recognition. Big brands can leverage its minimal space without the need for additional information as they are known. Unlike emerging brands, they need to stuff additional information into the tiny space, which ended up with cluttered content.

    Banner ads are versatile and simple. You can quickly produce and deploy. However, this doesn’t make up for its terrible effectiveness and low CTRs. It generates the least earnings among all ad types. But, it’s not all doom and gloom. It can still be effective, sometimes, during the engagement phase when users are active within the app and fully attentive.

    According to various experts, banner design needs a careful balance with subtle eye-catching content yet not too distracting from the app experience. Advertisers should highlight key features or offerings with a clear, concise call to action. Avoid bright colors, too much text or mediocre graphics.

    Some interesting findings by InMobi are that on Android, banner ads delivered the best conversions for lifestyle content (2.02%); on iOS, banner ads worked best for classified content (2.7%).


    • Available on all screens
    • Can be executed in large volumes
    • Cheapest format
    • Very quick to deploy
    • Easy to integrate


    • Limited space
    • Quickly fall into the “banner blindness” syndrome
    • Despite fighting the lack of space and users’ “banner blindness” syndrome with an animated content display. It is still not as efficient as its other counterparts (as you will see more below).
  5. Native Ads

    mobile ad format native ads

    Source: Mobyaffiliates, Sample of native ads that have the same look and feel like the app itself.

    Native ads come in various forms and sizes. It combines advertising message with user-centric content. Meaning instead of giving publishers the ad, they will be given the components of the ad. It is up to them to display the element in ways that fit well with its app. So, the ad will appear as a part of the app’s content—thus the name, “native”.

    It is similar to banner ads, but they don’t take up a particular screen space or the full display. Users can still browse the content while viewing the ad, but because of it’s “native” look and feel, it’s less of an eyesore and non-disruptive. Your ads will appear contextually appropriate. Thus, making native mobile advertising highly effective. For instance, an ad for cosmetics placed in the middle of a makeup tutorial article in a blog reader app.

    Many people deem that native ad format is by far the best mobile ad format. This is so because native ad leverages the context and relevance of the content on which it appears. Users treat the ads as a new content in their information flow. It makes much more sense for them too. These contribute to them being more likely to click on the ads.

    That’s why the CTR is splendid with static content. For example, native advertising on Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, or Instagram Ads. The targeting possibilities for these platforms are extremely accurate. It enables advertisers or brands to find the right people for your product or service.

    Some stats on native ads.

    1. Native ads are viewed 53% more than banner ads. (Source: Dedicated Media)
    2. Heineken Light reached 54% of audiences — 35 million people — in just three days using video ads on Facebook. (Source: Facebook)
    3. 32% of consumers said they would share a native ad with friends and family, versus 19% for banner ads. (Source: ShareThrough)


    • Less intrusive than other formats
    • Higher click-through rate (10.6%)
    • Better ad engagement rate (14.0%)
    • Improved user experience


    • Require more work to adapt the advertising on myriads of possibilities—due to its flexible format

How to Choose a Mobile Ad Format

There’s no rule of thumb when it comes to choosing the right ad format for your mobile campaign. To find the ad format that works best for you, you’ll have to experiment. With the myriad of ad formats and rich media components, there is room for loads of creativity.

However, you’ve got to start somewhere. So perhaps the following few questions will help you in identifying a proper ad format for your mobile marketing campaign.

  • What are your campaign goal and monetization objectives?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Are you looking for pure user experience (UX)? Or to balance UX with revenue?
  • Do you want less invasive ads?
  • Are you looking to run performance or branding campaign?
  • What inventory and platform are you targeting?


We are bound to see more creativity and innovation in mobile advertising. There will be new formats emerging as the industry evolves. Currently, video ads and interstitials for mobile look promising (data wise). However, given that we are all trying to reach varied audiences, it’s important to think about what works best with the user’s experience. Start from there and experiment with various mobile ad formats. Continually gather data and analyze your results. Then, tinker with effective mixes of ad format, placement, and frequency for your mobile campaigns.

Essentially, what’s more important is to work with the right partner who can help you optimize the ad content that works for your target consumers. This will help you get better response rate from your users.

For brands, the best practice is to provide a good experience with the ad, either through interactions, giving useful information, entertaining or generate a positive feeling. This will engage users and deliver a strong impact on brand recall, which increases brand affinity.

All statistical data found in this article is curated from MarketingLandSmartInsights, MobyAffiliates, VentureBeats, and eMarketer.



  1. Why Brands Should Embrace HTML5 Rich Media Ads Moving Forward - January 5, 2016

    […] many self-serve HTML5 ad builders, online or offline, available for you to select. There are many ways to transition to HTML5 ads. Whichever way you choose, it is critical to remember to plan ahead. Put in place a solid long-term […]

  2. How social media changed news consumption | This is a blog. - March 10, 2016

    […] that Snapchat views accounted for 21 percent of its overall Web traffic. While media companies may struggle with adapting to smartphones’ small, vertical screens, they’ve found it’s worth the effort. […]