Media Buying 102: Ad Formats

Media Buying 102: Ad Formats

Posted on 24-03-2017 by Wouter Groenewoud

So you've read Media Buying 101 and started your media buying adventure? Good! In this guide I would like to dive a little deeper into different types of ad formats. As a bonus I'll give you some tips on how to improve your CTR! If you missed the previous post I recommend you take the time to read that one first.

As you've learned in Media Buying 101, there are many different ad formats that can be used to promote your campaigns. Traffic Company mainly deals with mobile traffic, so we will focus primarily on mobile advertising in this article. Most tips apply to both mobile and desktop advertising though!

Banner ads

When talking about different ad formats we obviously have to start with banner ads, it's by far the most used ad format on the web. They have been around for a very long time and seem like a safe choice for marketers. But the fact that they're so widely used also has it's drawbacks.

As you might know, a term widely used in advertising is the Click Through Rate (CTR). The CTR is the ratio between the number of times an advertisement is shown to a user (also known as impressions) and the number of times a users actually clicks on an advertisement. If an ad is shown 1000 times and it was clicked on 10 times, the CTR is 1%. The very first online banner ad had a whopping CTR of 44%. Compare that with the current average CTR of around 0.1%, that's a huge difference!

One cause for this is something called 'banner blindness'. Don't fear, this is not some terrible disease causing your visitors to lose their sight. It just means that most internet users have learned to subconsciously ignore banner advertisements. Also, banners can be easily missed on mobile phones since users often scroll down much faster on a touch device than they would when using a scroll-wheel. But hey, you might get some extra clicks from users tapping your banner by accident.

Banners can be shown in different shapes/sizes on your smartphone. Let me go by the most common ones.

Display banner

The classic banner that we know all to well is called the 'display banner'. A display banner can be an image, an animated gif or even a video.

Adhesion banner

Adhesion banners are stuck to the bottom of the page and temporarily hides while the user interacts with the screen (for example while scrolling). When the banner is clicked it expands to show a new creative.

Example of an adhesion banner

Interstitial banner

The interstitial banner is a close relative to the pop-up ad. The difference is that this type of banner loads on top of the page instead of opening a new window. Interstitials take up the entire screen, making them impossible to miss, and forces the user to interact with the banner. This leads to higher CTR's, but may also annoy your visitors causing them to close the site entirely.

Example of an interstitial banner

Tip: Create a smart link in your Traffic Company dashboard and we'll provide you with a ready to use smart banner script!


Pop-ads is the collective term for Pop-ups and Pop-unders. They behave almost the same; they both open a new browser window parallel to the website. The difference is, as you might have guessed, that a pop-up opens a new window on top of the visited website while a pop-under loads behind the page. A pop-under works by loading the visited website in a new window, while redirecting the user to your ad in the original window.

Most users experience pop-under ads as being less intrusive and pushy since it doesn't take them away from the site they were visiting, only showing your ad when they decide to close to window. Since no click is required and the landing page is automatically loaded for every visitor, larger volumes are available for pop-ads.

Tip: Create a smart link in your Traffic Company dashboard and we'll provide you with a ready to go pop-under script.


In Media Buying 101 you've read that redirects are the least affective, but also less expensive form of online advertising. You can imagine a user won't be very happy to end up on a different site than they expected, so they are much more inclined to close the window. Redirects can be very useful for situations where large volumes are required, for example when testing new geo's or carriers. Volumes are declining though, since a lot of search engines are starting to penalize websites that redirect their users.

Tip: Create a smart link in your Traffic Company dashboard and we'll provide you with a ready to go redirect script.

Bonus: Improving your CTR

Ok, so we've discussed the most common ad formats and I hope you learned a thing or two along the way. As a bonus I would like to give you some tips for improving your CTR. This section is mainly applicable to banner ads, since pop-ads and redirects are automatically loaded and don't require visitors to click your ad. A good CTR can be achieved by keeping an eye on several factors. The 4 most important ones are:


The position of an ad on a website is very important. A lot of times the user doesn't scroll down on the page they're visiting, so when your ad is placed "below the fold" (the part that's not visible without scrolling) most visitors will never see your ad, let alone click it.


Some women might tell you that size doesn't matter, but it definitely does! Ok maybe not in every situation, but in the advertising business it can make a big difference. Showing a bigger banner means it will be easier to grab the user's attention, and it will also make it easier to click it. More clicks means a higher CTR, easy right? The most common banner sizes are: 300x250, 250x250, 300x50, 300x100, 468x60, and 782x90.


Imagine a user reading a blog post about the benefits of eating healthy food. When the user is confronted with an ad for a new fast food restaurant he would probably not be very inclined to click on it. Also visitors are more likely to have a negative association with your site when you show them misleading ads. Think very carefully about the cares and interests of your visitors and adjust your advertisements based on these assessments.


When you keep serving the same ad to your visitors, they become more prone to banner blindness. In order to counteract this effect many media buyers rotate their banners, showing a different ad when the users visits your page for a second time.

I wish you all good luck putting theory into practice! And remember, the Traffic Company crew is always eager to offer some tips. Just shoot me a message on Skype or send me an email if you need any help with choosing the right type of advertising for you.

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