Online Ads: A Guide to Online Ad Types and Formats
Online ads have become a daily part of internet life. For new marketers, it can be confusing getting a grasp on the scope and variety of online ads available. We've compiled a thorough list to help catagorize and explain each form of online ads present on the web. Enjoy!
- Google Search Ads
- AdWords Ads
- PPC Ads
- Bing Ads
- Facebook Ads
- Twitter Ads
- Tumblr Ads
- Banner Ads
- Google Display Ads
- Retargeting Ads
- Reddit Ads
- Mobile Ads
- In-Game Ads
- AdMob Ads
- Email Ads
- Gmail Ads
- Video Ads
- YouTube Ads
- Pinterest Ads
- Instagram Ads
- Vine Ads
- TV Ads
- Newspaper Ads
- Radio Ads
- Urban Ads
Google search ads are online ads that appear alongside the search engine result page when users search a keyword query on Google. These ads are PPC, or pay-per-click ads, in which advertisers pay for each ad click. Google’s PPC search ads are managed by Google’s AdWords advertising platform, which allows advertisers to bid on keywords, craft ad text, set budgets, and more. To advertise on Google AdWords, you'll need to create a Google AdWords Account.
AdWords ads are online advertisements created within Google’s AdWords advertising platform, identical to Google search ads.
PPC ads, AKA pay-per-click ads, are advertisements in which the cost of advertising is determined by the number of clicks an ad receives. AdWords and Bing Ads both use a pay-per-click model.
Bing ads are similar to Google ads in that they work on a pay-per-click basis. Advertisers can manage their ads through the Bing Ads service, formerly known as Microsoft adCenter. You can get started with creating Bing Ads here once you have a Bing Ads Account.
Facebook ads exist in many different forms, each offering unique pros and cons for advertisers looking to market on Facebook. To learn all about Facebook advertising, read our Facebook Marketing blog post, or check out our list of 45 Facebook advertising tips.
Marketplace ads appear in the side columns of the Facebook website with a headline, copy, and an image.
Promoted Posts are Facebook ads that let advertisers pay a flat rate to promote a single post on their Facebook business page. The promoted post reaches more fans and friends of fans than a regular post.
Sponsored Stories show a user’s interaction with an advertisers page or product to the user’s friends and larger network. Sponsored Stories are also one form of Facebook ads that can appear in a user’s newsfeed.
FBX, or Facebook Exchange, are Facebook ads that implement remarketing. These ads take into account a user’s web surfing history data, letting an advertiser show an ad for a product a user was looking at earlier on the advertiser’s website.
To see more examples, check out our Ultimate Facebook Ad Types Cheatsheet.
Twitter ads refer to the paid boosts that brands on Twitter can use to extend the reach of their tweets, promote a chosen hashtag, or gain more followers.
Promoted Tweets lets advertisers’ tweets reach more people’s home feeds, and offer a healthy batch of targeting options. Twitter ads also include Promoted Accounts, letting advertisers show up more often in Twitter’s Who to Follow recommendation feature. Promoted Trends gets your custom hashtag in the Trends bar, earning additional attention and notice from the Twitterverse. If you're looking to advertise on Twitter, check out these Twitter ad examples.
Tumblr ads come in a few different formats – Tumblr Radar and Spotlight allow for “sponsors,” aka advertisers, to be featured in areas where Tumblr highlights unique content and accounts. With 54 million users posting 70 million posts per day that get over half a billion page views each day, the Tumblr community is an active and lively one.
Tumblr also offers sponsored web post ads, which are pieces of Tumblr content crafted by advertisers that appear in users’ main dashboard feed, integrated with normal, user-generated content. These Tumblr ads have small dollar signs to mark them as advertising content. In order to post your online ads onto the Tumblr platform, you'll have to become a Tumblr sponsor.
Banner ads are image-based advertisements that often appear in the side, top, and bottom sections of websites. They can range widely in terms of size, design, and function. You'll typically find them in all sorts of news-based websites, blogs, and specialized web communities. Many websites brokerage their ad space with ad exchanges such as Google's Display Network, or you can buy the ad space in the same manner you'd buy an ad on a newspaper.
Google Display Ads are a form of contextual banner ads used in the Google Display Network, Google’s collection of network sites that agree to host display ads. The Google Display Network also includes Google properties such as YouTube, Gmail, Blogger, etc. Google Display ads can be text, images, and even video based. To serve online ads on the Google Display Network, you need to start by using Google AdWords.
Retargeting ads (see similar, Google Remarketing) entice a user to visit a site by taking into account the user’s past web history. When a user visits a website, a retargetting campaign cookie is attached to the visitor, taking note of what pages and products the user visits while browsing the site.
Once the user leaves the advertiser’s site and begins journeying to other websites, targetting ads can be made to appear in certain ad spaces, displaying ads that specifically call out what the user was looking at on the advertiser’s site earlier.
Retargeting ads tend to perform drastically better than regular banner ads, with higher click-through rates and conversions. If you're already using Google AdWords, we have a step-by-step tutorial on creating your own Google AdWords remarketing ad.
Flash ads are banner ads that use Flash design, often featuring interactive elements to entice users. While flash is still used subtly in certain display ads, the playful, interactive, and somewhat hokey flash ads that were common in the millennial years are no longer considered a popular form of banner ad.
Reddit ads are advertisements featuring a headline title, destination URL, and an optional photo. Reddit ads work on a bid-based system, in which advertisers can set campaign budgets and choose how long they want their campaign to run for. Reddit ads allow for some unique targeting options and are often fairly cheap, with low cost-per-impressions.
What really makes Reddit ads unique are the comments and voting – users can upvote or downvote your ad, giving advertisers an easy read on if users like or dislike an ad. Each ad, like all other posts on Reddit, has a comment section. This can be useful for advertisers because it allows users to provide direct feedback that goes straight to the advertiser.
The best Reddit ads take their audience into consideration – Reddit is predominantly frequented by a young, tech-savvy audience, mostly males. On a whole, the Reddit community is very wary of blatant marketing, so posting a Reddit advertisement can be a bit like playing with fire. If done properly, Reddit ads can bring a lot of attention for low cost. You can advertise on Reddit through their website.
Mobile ads are ads that appear on smartphones, tablets, and any other mobile device. Many social media platforms, websites, and apps offer their own unique mobile ad options. If you advertise on Google AdWords, you can advertise to mobile devices by taking advantage of Enhanced Campaigns.
Photo by Rob Zand
In-Game ads are advertisements that exist within computer or video games. One of the most common examples of in-game advertising is billboards appearing in sport games. In-game ads also might appear as brand-name products like guns, cars, or clothing that exist as gaming status symbols.
AdMob Ads are advertisements that appear within mobile apps. AdMob itself is Google’s mobile advertising platform, enabling app creators to make revenue off of free games by offering ad space, and allowing advertisers to get ad spots in the most popular mobile games and apps.
AdMob ads can appear as mobile-optimized text ads, image-based banner ads, or even interstitials ads, which use rich HTML5.
Email ads are advertisements sent to users via web mail. Email ads can be used to notify subscribers of certain promotions, discounts, or new features, among other uses.
Most email advertisements feature a large image with minimal text; users will not waste large amounts of time reading email ads, so it’s important to make your message as clear and concise as possible. Email ads also rely on a compelling subject line to ensure that a user will open the email.
Email ads have specific rules – the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, created to prevent email spam for users, authorizes a $16,000 penalty per violation for spamming individuals, which is why many email marketers in the US use an email service or software to make sure they are in compliance with the Act.
Gmail ads in Google’s online email service are contextual ads that are generated by an automated process that scans a user’s emails to discover interests and topics that are relevant to the user. If a user is writing and receiving many emails about air conditioners, that user may see ads about air conditions appear within the Gmail client.
While privacy advocates are wary of such practices, Gmail advertising is fully automated and Google asserts that no humans read user emails, only robots.
Video ads are growing in popularity as better internet speed performance and online advancements make it fast and easy to watch videos on the web. The most successful video ads avoid blatant advertising, opting instead for educational, how-to video content that naturally appeals to users, with some (if any) product suggestions discreetly integrated. Humorous video ads also perform well, with some funny video ad network campaigns finding enormous success, especially when an interactive element is added.
YouTube ads are ads that appear on Google’s video-sharing site. Since Google obtained ownership of YouTube, advertising on YouTube has become nearly as easy and customizable as advertising on AdWords.
YouTube ads provide a number of targeting options and several different ad formats. YouTube advertisements can appear as banner ads, in-video overlay ads, in-stream video ads (which are video ads that appear before or during another YouTube video), as well as several other setups.
Pinterest ads are simply pieces of content pinned by brands and advertisers. When marketing a specific product, marketers create Pinterest advertisements by adding a dollar sign before the price amount to the description. This tells Pinterest that this item is for sale at that specific price. Pinterest marketers can then link the pinned item to the official product page to drive retail traffic.
Some marketers also implement their own form of Pinterest advertising by hosting contests on Pinterest. While this doesn’t result in direct sales, contests are a great way to drum up user attention, engagement, and boost site traffic, depending on how the contest is organized. Take note that while you do not have to pay Pinterest to create ads, you will have to spend significant time and effort to create beautiful online ads to attract lurking buyers on Pinterest. Note that Pinterest ads work best on tangible B2C products.
There are at the moment no “official” Instagram ads – just brands being creative and producing Instagram pics that can be shared right alongside user-crafted content.
Vine ads operate the same way Instagram ads do – there are no official Vine ads at the moment, but many brands and advertisers produce Vine video ads that serve as natural content-based advertising, integrating with regular used-crafted content.
Good Vine ads take a clue from other successful Vines by creating 6-second content that stands out, often implementing stop-motion techniques.
Other Forms of Advertising
While we're primarily concerned with showing online ad examples, it's worth giving a quick overview of other more common, offline forms of advertising as well!
TV ads are a very expensive but still well regarded form of advertising that’s as old as television itself.
TV ads are a form of outbound marketing, also known as interruption marketing, which relies on interrupting viewers in an effort to get their attention. In order to avoid being received as obnoxious by viewers, many television ads now make an effort to appeal to a viewer’s emotions through humor, a sense of goodwill, nostalgia, or even sometimes anger or sadness. For many TV ads, the main objective is to be emotionally powerful and memorable.
News ads are thought by many to be a thing of the past, but they still offer value, especially when targeting audiences who may not be online often. News ads can build brand awareness, although tracking the performance of newspaper advertisements is nearly impossible. Online ads, on the other hand, offer audience targeting options, performance measurement analytics, and a wealth of other advantages against classic news ads.
Radio ads are similar to TV ads and newspaper ads in that they too are a form of outbound marketing that seeks out attention through interruption. As with other forms of advertising that don’t operate online, radio ads can be difficult to measure and track.
Urban advertising is advertising that, at its most basic, exists in densely populated cities. Urban advertising often takes advantage of setting to shock or inspire awe in viewers. Urban advertising also often exists as a form of alternative advertising, using unconventional or unique methods of spreading a message.
Photo from Curbanism
Photo by Arturo de Albornoz