Getting Started with Digital Ad Formats

Published 10 December 2020 by Philippa Gamse

The digital advertising global market is big business, with revenues estimated at $329 billion in 2021 (after a brief decline due to the COVID pandemic), and projected to reach more than $525 billion by 2025. Although North America is the largest market, the Asia Pacific region (and specifically India and China) is experiencing the highest growth rates, so this is truly a worldwide phenomenon.

Of course, the term “digital advertising” encompasses a lot of different possibilities. It refers to any data-driven process by which a company promotes its products and / or services online, which can include using search engines such as Google, Baidu and YouTube, social media platforms, both corporate and third-party websites, within mobile apps and via voice assistants.  When done well, digital advertising is designed to appeal to online consumers at every stage of their customer journey, from initially hearing about a brand, to doing in-depth research on different options, to making a purchase decision, and to (hopefully from the brand’s perspective) becoming a long-term customer.

There are a lot of different formats in which ads can be made, including images, animations, and video – or a combination of these. And there are a lot of different options for placing them in front of users, ranging from the familiar banner ads and pop-up windows in various shapes and sizes, to interstitials which are placed as users scroll down a page or mobile app, and native advertising which blends in so well with the look and feel of the content that surrounds them that viewers may not even realise that they’re looking at an ad!

For example, Adidas has partnered with the International Space Station (ISS) US National Lab to research and test footwear products and their manufacturing process in the very low gravity of space.  Their “Goodbye Gravity” videos combine footage from the ISS and research labs with images of athletes and running shoes for a seamless native ad experience.

Then there are much more sophisticated ad formats, including 360° and interactive video which allow users to control what they see by using the cursor to move around.  A famous example of this format is Honda’s “The Other Side” which was designed to revitalise the brand in the eyes of younger drivers, and to launch the Civic Type R sports model. The ad shows two parallel stories, one during the day in which a father is picking his daughter up from school in a regular white Civic, and the other set at night where the father is an undercover cop working a sting operation and driving a red Type R (very fast!)  The viewer toggles between the two versions using the “R” key, which reinforces the brand message.

And there are visually beautiful cinemagraphic ads.  These are static images which include one or two elements that have short, repeating movements that aim to capture the attention of the viewer.  Heineken used this technique for an ad showing beer pouring from a bottle into a glass against a static background of a beach scene.  Fashion brand Armani promoted their spectacle frames by using the lenses to focus a blurred view of autumn in Central Park – with the motion being falling leaves.

As you can see, there are a lot of possibilities in the digital advertising world, and a lot to think about.  But at Circus Street we’ve got you covered with our “Intro to Digital Ad Formats” lesson in which we talk about how the different ad types and how they’re used.  Take a look, and get creative!

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