Ad Formats and Mobile Programmatic Evolve and Collide


Noelia Amoedo, CEO of mediasmart


The rapid evolution of programmatic ad tech has created platforms that can now use first and third party data and artificial intelligence to deliver very sophisticated predictive targeting – enhancing the media buying process to allow marketers to quickly target very specific audiences.

These tools will fall short of their objectives, of course, if the very foundation of our industry – the ad itself – is not relevant and engaging or is perceived as an invasion or inconvenience.

Therefore, it is vital to consider the most appropriate ad format for your campaign. So what are the crucial considerations in choosing the right ad format for a given audience objective and what are the challenges and benefits of using each format, in a programmatic environment?

The trusty display ad

The traditional static or animated image based formats of banner and interstitial ads remain key components of most mobile marketing campaigns. These are typically shown inside a web page or app within a page or within closable ad units. Both these formats ensure strong viewability for mobile optimised publishers, and offer a single interaction point to be clicked.

Most of the time, the same ad units also allow the serving of rich media, offering an immersive experience that allows users to play within the ad unit and interact with multiple calls to action. Used effectively, rich media ads are capable of increasing user engagement and conversion with customizable CTAs, even if they are mostly used because of their ability to boost brand awareness.

Traditionally, the challenge with using rich media ads was making sure the user experience within the ad unit was not broken due to a fragmented in-app ecosystem and the way in which each ad unit is served.

This remains a challenge for those who work with custom rich media ad servers, but it can be overcome by using one of the growing number of mobile-first rich media vendors certified with the programmatic mobile supply sources.

Banner images can also be made even more relevant with the use of personalisation technologies. Imagine, for example banners including dynamic elements that change based on the user’s location. These are ideal for marketers looking to maximise engagement, personalise their communications and increase relevancy to their target audiences.

Advanced ad formats

Beyond traditional display, lie the even more engaging and sophisticated advanced formats of native and video ads, which again, have become increasingly available programmatically, as the mobile programmatic environment matures. These two formats can now also be bought through real time bidding (RTB).

Native Ads

Native inventory arrived with a bang less than two years ago. Whilst publishers have been slow to adopt the format, use of these content-driven ads that match any app’s user experience, is about to reach a tipping point.

Native ads allow marketing to be more descriptive, with a clear call to action, facilitating more qualified clicks. They are therefore a highly efficient vehicle for generating engagement and conversions.

They also offer a non-interruptive and high quality ad experience for the end-user, and again, are becoming a compelling option for marketers focusing on building brand awareness, especially as they can now include video.

In a programmatic environment, native ads offer similar viewability guarantees as image ads, as the creative assets are delivered directly to the SSP, which has full control over how to render them properly.

With the emergence of ad-blocking software, many believe native formats will play an increasingly important role in coming years. Recent standardisation and the ability to offer less intrusive and more personalized ads that work well for both the advertiser and the consumer, will also promote their cause.


With the rising importance of and hunger for online video content, use of programmatically available mobile video ads is also expected to grow in 2016, as mobile first supply partners adopt the format and video supply partners extend support to mobile. Programmatic mobile video is delivered to ad exchanges and SSPs via VAST tags, therefore increasing viewing guarantees, as the tags are standardised within the marketplace. They also maximize measurability for the advertiser.

Many see video as key to the evolution of mobile advertising, as it offers greater creative scope, relevancy and engagement levels. It holds strong potential for advertisers looking beyond brand awareness to a direct response, as video formats are becoming more action driven with full screen “end cards” and inclusion of native video.

Looking ahead

2016 is set to be another big year for the development of mobile ad formats. This is timely because the industry needs the ad format ecosystem to evolve to accommodate new measurement and viewability demands and the implications of ad-blocking tools.

It’s clear that all formats, whether traditional or advanced, will continue to develop rapidly over the coming years and soon the majority will be supported by the programmatic ecosystem.

Audio formats, playable ads and interactive video are just a few examples of what’s to come; and we’re set for exciting times, because as ad formats evolve to become even more relevant and engaging, the algorithms behind them will offer us unprecedented levels of customer insight.

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