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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Image ad sizes

A very important aspect of any kind of display activity is the images and ad sizes. These are known as the ad formats.

This is a series of ad formats here. These are the most common ad formats across the web.

  • Leaderboard is the most impactful ad format in terms of clickthrough simply because it’s at the top of the page and it’s the first thing that people see. As a result, it drives most clicks.
  • The most engaging ad format is the MPU, which is a 300 x 250 ad format. It’s a square, it tends to be in the content, embedded in the content. So, when someone’s reading something and their eye glances into the MPU, we hope to catch their attention and engage them more.
  • The final most common format is a skyscraper formats where there’s a skyscraper or a white skyscraper. They are commonly used formats. They tend to be less impactful simply because of where the eye line is on the page.

With the leaderboard, it’s at the top, it’s the first thing we see, we get it. With the MPU, it’s in the middle, it’s in the content we’re reading. Whereas with skyscrapers, they tend to be just to the side of the content, so as a result, our eyes tend not to focus in on where the skyscraper is. As a result, it’s less effective.

There are other formats and other formats to consider around mobile. We’ve got mobile banners and large mobile banners. This is a key consideration because if you think a mobile format, the mobile screen’s quite small. Creating a separate suite of mobile banners allows you to ensure that your messaging is readable on a mobile device. If you simply scale down a leaderboard or an MPU onto a mobile, it may not actually be readable. So, doing a 300 x 50 banner ad on a mobile device allows you to ensure that the messaging is readable, which is essential to what we’re trying to achieve here.

Ad specifications

Just some specifications around ad formats.

  • We’ve got our non-animated ads, or static ads, which can be GIFs or JPEGs or PNGs.
  • We’ve got animated ads, which can be GIFs. A
  • We’ve got HTML5 ads, which can be uploaded into Gmail and expanded out in a specific ad format.

The maximum file size is 150kb and the measurement is in pixels.

These are key considerations for a creative brief because if we deliver the wrong ad formats, we can’t use them. So we can’t run our campaign. And there’s different specifications that must be brought in the brief for us to create the ads that we can use in the Google Display Network. Ads will differ on different channels. So, Facebook has different ad specs and premium may have different ad specs. But ultimately, we will be generally contained to HTML5, animated or static.

Responsive ads

To ensure that we don’t have to go to a designer every single time when we’re running ads in the Google Display Network, Google has what’s called Responsive Ad Creator. So, you can upload an image into Google and write some text and Google will create a template that overlays that text over the image.

Likewise, because consumers are on different devices, Google will ensure that the text responds and changes shape depending on what device they’re on, and where the image is actually placed. You might have an ad in MPU format. If the ad needs to be served into a skyscraper format, the image will reshape into a skyscraper. Likewise, it will reshape into a leaderboard or whatever shape the ad unit is. So, this allows us to create one single ad unit that responds to all the different ad units available to us on the Google Display Network, without a designer. It’s cost effective. The only drawback is the creativity can be a little bit limited, but we can test that over time.

Advantages of responsive ads

Some advantages of responsive ads:

  • One creative source and piece: It’s a single creative source, it’s a single creative piece. It’s the one source of our activity and it’s the single piece. This means that when we update our creative, it expands out to all the different units that we serve in.
  • Consistent messaging and style: It keeps our messaging consistent and our style consistent because it comes to that single output there.
  • Easy to create: There’s a setup wizard in the Google Display Network that simply guides you through the product. You upload your image, you write your body copy, you set your landing page, and you press Save. And that’s it, done. You do need to consider what is the image you’re going to upload, whether it’s a stock image from the Google library, whether it’s your own image, or it’s an image you’re going to create.

In an ideal world, you will have a defined image for your campaign and not just scrape your website. But if that must happen, it’s okay too because it does limit the costs that are associated with any kind of creative output.

Disadvantages of responsive ads

  • Limited scope for creativity: That does mean that scope of responsive ads will be a little bit limited because this is all we can show, this is the single image we can show, and this is the single copy we can show. Whereas, if you were to approach a designer, you might get multiple different ad formats, multiple different copy styles and send them out there.
  • Copy restrictions: There are restrictions on copy as well. There are character limits on your headline and on your two description lines within a responsive ad. So, you have to consider those.
  • Copy restrictions on images: There are also copy restrictions on your images. So, there will be a certain amount of text that is allowed on the image and a certain amount of text that’s not allowed in the image.
  • Limited to the GDN: The GDN won’t be the only channel that we use in our display media activity, while just responsive ads are limited purely to the GDN itself.

Other ad formats on the GDN

There are other ad formats outside of the responsive ads on the GDN.


We do have Gmail ads where we can target people within their Gmail based on perhaps the subject line of senders, the body content of emails that they’ve sent or senders have sent, the email addresses or the domain names of who sends the emails.

So, if you wanted to target, for example, your competitor’s newsletter list, you can just put the competitor domain in as a targeting option in your Gmail ads. And then anyone who gets their emails from that domain is liable to get served your GDN Gmail ad. It may or may not happen. The only thing is with ad blockers and certainly with the way that Gmail is setup, it tends to be in the promotional tab, so it’s not always served. Sometimes you find with Gmail ads, it leads to mixed results, but it is worth testing as part of an overall display campaign.

Engagement ads

Then also on the Google Display Network, you’ve got engagement ads. These are expandable MPUs that will run a video when someone hovers over them for a certain amount of time. So, if your mouse hovers over a certain MPU placement, it literally goes one, two, three, and then the video plays. So, it’s like expanding your YouTube reach and your YouTube formats out to the Google Display Network.


That brings this on to YouTube itself, which we know is part of the GDN where you can run your pre-rolls or your mid-rolls or your in-ads. So, you can serve banners on YouTube videos or you can serve videos that appear before videos that people are looking at.

Dynamic ads

Dynamic remarketing is like Criteo, which is the e-commerce retargeting. You can link your Google Shopping account to the Google Display Network and drive remarketing based on the products that people have just looked at. It will show the product they’ve just viewed, the price of the product and the landing page of that product. So, like Criteo, but just on the Google Display Network, where the partnerships for Criteo tend to be around premium websites, whereas the Google Display Network, while similar in functionality, might be lower value websites.

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Cathal Melinn

Cathal Melinn is a well-known digital marketing director, commercial analyst, and ecommerce specialist with over 15 years’ experience.

Cathal is a respected international conference speaker, course lecturer, and digital trainer. He specialises in driving complete understanding from students across a number of digital marketing disciplines including: paid and organic search (PPC and SEO), analytics, strategy and planning, social media, reporting, and optimisition.  Cathal works with digital professionals in over 80 countries and teaches at all levels of experience from beginner to advanced.

Alongside his training and course work, Cathal runs his own digital marketing agency and is considered an analytics and revenue generating guru - at enterprise level. He has extensive local and international experience working with top B2B and B2C brands across multiple industries.

Over his career, Cathal has worked client-Side, in digital marketing agencies and media owners with brands including HSBC, Amazon, Apple, Red Bull, Dell, Vodafone, Compare the Market, Aer Lingus, and Expedia.

He can be reached on LinkedIn here.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

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