Bye, Bye Banner: Emerging Display Formats & What Marketers Need To Know

A renaissance in digital display advertising is underway which will finally put an end to the tyranny of the banner.

Smart publishers, brand marketers and agencies will participate in creating the new digital advertising order by adopting and experimenting with new mobile, native, digital video and, yes, browser banner formats like the IAB Rising Stars. (Disclosure: IAB is my employer.)

A digital ad ghetto, consisting of the right rail and leaderboard, became embedded in the digital advertising world early and has stubbornly held on despite advances in device forms and capabilities, bandwidth and user expectations.

The Dominance of Decades Old Formats Is On The Wane

These lowest-common-denominator formats have been further supported by the advance of programmatic trading, which requires easily trafficked ads and, in fact, chokes on most advanced formats. It is deeply and sadly ironic that the best technological minds are being funded fanatically by venture capitalists in efforts supporting formats that are over a decade old. (Yes, the 300×250 and 728×90 standards were established just after the turn of the millennium!)

The domination of the banner at the page margins will take time to weaken, but it is clear that it is just a matter of time before it fades to oblivion.

Accelerating this decline are IAB Rising Stars, the larger, richer ad formats that take up more of the page either initially or upon expansion; mobile advertising in general, where despite valiant attempts by the mobile banner, an ad ghetto will never take hold; native advertising forms, which put advertising in the content well; and digital video advertising, which is in the user’s activity stream by design not on the margins.

There is a growing realization among publishers that the entire page can be “open for business.” Brand marketers and agencies are similarly discovering that their creative canvas need not be limited to placements at the edge of the frame.

As ever, realizing the potential of these new ad forms will require herculean efforts across the ecosystem to enable the most efficient creation, serving, buying, selling, measuring and optimizing possible. Significant progress has been made already, with leading industry players participating in the development of these new forms. Here is a synopsis of where each stands and suggestions for involvement.

6 New Display Standard Ad Formats

The standard bearer for the display renaissance is the IAB Rising Stars program. Over the past two years, the IAB Standard Ad Unit portfolio has undergone a dramatic transformation and is now 70% new.

The process started by delisting 11 of the 18 existing standards and adding, through an open competition judged by agencies, six new formats:

  1. Billboard
  2. Filmstrip
  3. Portrait
  4. Pushdown
  5. Sidekick
  6. Slider

These formats offer rich interactivity on the page and, as such, have proven effective at driving interaction and brand lift.

To measure the new units’ ability to deliver for brand advertisers, IAB conducted proprietary research on attentiveness, emotive response and brand lift with campaigns for AT&T, Jeep and Westin Hotels & Resorts. The research findings revealed that consumers interact significantly more with Rising Stars than with incumbent standard ad units (such as the leaderboard and medium rectangle).

Users were 2.5 times more likely to interact with a Rising Stars, spent twice as much time interacting, and took less time to react to the ad. Along with increased interaction, eye-tracking showed that users viewed Rising Stars longer (31% more).

In addition, study respondents found the Rising Stars ads to be more “enjoyable” and “engaging,” and they were more likely to say the Rising Stars  “improved my impression of this website” and their opinion of the brand.

If your web page or media plan consists of only the older IAB standards like the Universal Ad Package, consider yourself officially old-fashioned. Style Guides and Tech Specs are available for each of these new units, while all leading rich-media vendors have built them into their platforms and can easily produce and traffic them at scale.

Native Advertising

While the IAB Rising Stars were a deliberate effort to start a display renaissance, the unplanned rise of native advertising is playing an equally important role. This darling of new media rocketed onto the scene in 2013 like it was shot out of a cannon.

In response, the IAB created a Native Advertising Task Force, a group of companies 80+ members strong which came together to establish a playbook to frame the native advertising space and which will continue to collaborate on guidelines and standards.

This group is bullish on the future of native advertising for many reasons, including that it puts advertising in the users’ activity stream, where TV and magazine ads have been forever, while also establishing the first-ever primarily brand advertising format.

Challenges to the growth of this ad form abound, however. The task force cited the need for more and higher quality ad content, the inevitable rise of native ad avoidance, issues with transparency and disclosure, the strain native ads put on organic social feeds, and the challenge of scale.


Despite these challenges (which the ecosystem is addressing), native advertising is here to stay, putting ad formats in the content well and in user activity streams. The proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube, and ad formats will not ever return entirely to the side of the page, outside of the content well.

Mobile Advertising

The wonder of the mobile phenomenon and our relationship with such devices will be a key driver of the display ad renaissance, as consumers simply will not tolerate or respond to poor ads that do not live up to their expectations on these devices. The 320×50 mobile banner will have a much shorter lifespan and much less influence than the desktop banner, and this is a good thing.

While the industry is in the early stages of determining the best ad experiences on untethered devices, at present, full-page ads (like the IAB Full Page Flex, below) and in-feed formats appear to be winners.

IAB Full Page Flex

IAB Full Page Flex

Given the intimacy and utility of mobile devices, consumers’ expectations for meaningful ad experiences are much greater than on the desktop. The result of this higher bar will likely be more care and effectiveness, with the knowledge and best practices spilling from mobile back to the desktop.

Digital Video

The fourth driver of the display ad renaissance is digital video. At first glance, this notion may seem strange, as digital video in a program stream (i.e., “TV on the internet”) hardly seems like a display ad format. If I were writing this even a year ago, that might have been the case.

However, digital video advertising today appears regularly in organic, effective ways out of a video stream. Perhaps the best example is the Billboard format that is used extensively to showcase video:

YouTube Preview Image

In addition, the growing acceptance of in-feed advertising is beginning to open new spaces for digital video ads — in a stream of content that is not video-based. The most well-known of these placements is the Facebook Premium Video Ad, and we will surely see more.

The Digital Advertising Renaissance

A renaissance is underway in digital advertising. The digital advertising “Middle Age” characterized by the old-fashioned banner and the ad ghetto placement is ending. New ad experiences in keeping with users’ expectations of their devices and brands will flourish.

Smart publishers, brand marketers, and agencies are participating in the creation of this new world order by adopting and experimenting with fresh mobile, native, digital video and desktop formats. Which side of history will you be on?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Display Advertising Column | Mobile Marketing | Native Advertising


About The Author: is the Head of Brand Initiatives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) where he leads a series of initiatives designed to address the under-representation of creative brand advertising online. He was formerly Managing Director of Lowe Worldwide, the global creative agency network of the Interpublic Group.

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  • Jenny

    I have recommended Rising Star ads to clients, but they seem to be hesitant to use a new format until they see similar companies using them. There often seems to be a hesitation to try something new, but the early adopters are the ones that will receive the real edge and benefit from using a new format when they seem fresh to consumers.

  • someshl

    Can we really apply this in google adsense ?

  • Joe Bloggs

    Frustrating to see that the IAB are not taking into consideration the major problem publishers have with the web today when re-writing these standards/formats.

    I work for a large UK based publisher – we’re seeing most of our web traffic is now coming from non-desktop devices – i.e. mobile/tablet.

    Most rich media formats – such as filmstrips don’t work well on these types of sites/environments – due to the way the device renders these sites (especially if publishers have a non-mobile optimised site) & currently mainly because advertisers try to build rich looking ads using flash as opposed to HTML5. Even when built as HTML5 they don’t work particularly well and in a responsive web scenario these aren’t going to entice engagement from the user and are just going to result in users getting frustrated with forever scrolling ….

    What most publishers are looking at in my opinion is how to make responsive web sites and advertising work in those environment. My personal opinion is that the IAB could be doing a better job of recommending some standards here as opposed to treating mobile separate to the web and recommending mobile formats and rising star for the web.

    Most of these formats take up an entire width or height of a screen – so can be made in some shape or form to be responsive however, once you start adding ‘expanding’ functionality to it – it opens all kind of problems. In addition most of these formats are currently built in the market using flash – again won’t work for responsive web.

  • Maciej Staniszczak
  • Digitant

    I think some of the ad formats are old like sliders etc. But these are going to worthy formats.
    Thanks @digitant:disqus

  • Sean Gallahar

    When it comes to mobile, the slider probably works the best at least in my opinion; and at least for now. A lot can be done to further improve desktop as well as mobile ads.

  • DonMedia

    Unless this is accompanied by better viewability metrics, we just have fancy new sized ads not being seen.

  • Eugene Du Plessis

    I did pricing models on rising stars for msn in 2012 and also presented it to some of their key client… nothing knew here except a misleading title. It is still a banner Peter…

  • Melissa Eisenberg

    I agree that businesses are apprehensive to try new things, but it is required to stay relevant. As advertising changes, especially with the rise of native, we need to adapt. The more the ads fit with the audience demographic and feel natural, the better (whether through display, or social advertising on FB or Twitter…and now Pinterest). Social Feed advertising is another area to explore. Like what these guys are doing on both desktop and mobile: or

  • kudo shinichi

    The fourth driver of the display ad renaissance is digital video thời trang nam thời trang At first glance, this notion may seem strange, as digital video in a program stream

  • peterIAB

    Jenny, thanks for recommending them! it takes a village to get these moving, including pubs, marketers, and agencies. The tide is turning now–did you see that Apple used the IAB BIllboard to launch Ipad air films on line? Beautiful.

  • peterIAB

    In automation, yes, but that will take a bit of time to materialize

  • peterIAB

    Joe, great comment and, yes, responsive/html5/cross screen “standard” (if there is such a thing) is next for the IAB. In fact, “Rising Stars NEXT” is underway to solve for this very issue. Stay tuned and keep fighting the good fight.

  • peterIAB

    Dane, I do see a melding of “banners” with “native” in the future and we are working hard to get benefits of both (scale AND effectiveness)

  • peterIAB

    To some extent, we did “package” effective in-market units to try to get focus and scale.

  • peterIAB

    Sean, I think we will see the desktop “learn” a lot from the mobile environment.

  • peterIAB

    I like Viewability as it brings duration into the picture as a standard mrc accredited metric. If 1 second is a threshold for viewable, is 10 seconds premium? I think so.

  • peterIAB

    if the banner itself is not dead, Eugene, then the term “banner” has been killed by us in the industry. I do see display being a combo of banners, video, native, and rich media. But, you are right, that old term will die hard

  • peterIAB

    in-feed ads are really the biggest change we are seeing and I am happy about that. I do hope we as an industry respect the fact that in-feed requires a higher order ad product; i.e., ads need to be better if they are going to be in my feed. Social feeds are interesting and I hope we can keep them from just becoming the next place that traditional banners are placed.

  • Sean Gallahar

    A true statement.


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