Interstitial ads are a popular form of online advertising, particularly for independent advertisers and publishers. While they are increasingly “popping up” on desktop websites, they are most often seen in the mobile and gaming arenas.
Mobile interstitial ads should be placed within the user journey, with Google noting that they should be typically displayed at “natural transition points in the flow of an app”, either between a game's activities or levels.
However, careless implementation leads them to become an intrusive advertising option, which is why Google now penalizes certain interstitial ads.
Despite this, interstitial ads are still one of the most popular mobile and desktop ad formats. When applied correctly, in the right circumstances, they are an excellent ad choice for publishers looking to increase their digital ad revenue.
This article covers the finer points of interstitial ads for online advertisers and publishers.
Table of contents:
What Are Interstitial Ads?
Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that cover the entire interface of a host app or site. These ads appear between content—interstitially—at natural app transition points, such as in between levels in games, or after certain activities.
As opposed to pop-up ads (as seen on the left of the below image) that overlay content and banner ads (seen in the middle) that appear at the top of content, interstitial ads (seen on the right) are a full-screen ad that covers the entire screen.
Interstitial ads are immune to ad blockers, which makes them a more effective choice in some cases.
When encountering an interstitial ad, users only have two options: click the ad, which will send them to the advertiser's desired location, or close the ad and go back to the host site, app, or game.
The timing of this close option depends on the ad type.
For example, non-video, interstitial ads have an immediate close option. In contrast, interstitial video ads may have up to a five-second delay before a user can go back to the host app.
Why Use an Interstitial Ad?
Interstitial ads are one of the most popular ad formats due to their high impression rate and click-through rates (CTRs).
- Interstitial ads are more prominent ads, meaning they are ideal for mobile devices. Larger ads mean larger impressions and user engagement, assisting in overcoming ad viewability issues—or banner blindness—in the smartphone environment.
- Higher viewability leads to higher click-through rates (CTRs).
- Higher CTRs lead to higher conversion rates and overall ad revenue
For gaming apps and games that run through a mobile site, they often require the entire viewport for the interface, making the interstitial ad format one of the most popular mobile ad formats.
Penalties for Using Interstitial Ads
While it may seem counterintuitive for a company that makes a large portion of its revenue through advertising to penalize certain ads, Google does just this.
Google's mission, according to its Ads Policy states, is to “support a healthy digital advertising ecosystem” that is both trustworthy and transparent and also works for users, advertisers, and publishers.
In line with this philosophy, Google announced in 2015 that it would penalize websites that displayed full-page ads prompting users to install mobile apps. It then announced that in 2017 further mobile interstitial penalties would be applied to the following:
- Displaying a popup that covers a page's primary content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results or while they are scrolling through the page.
- Displaying a standalone interstitial that has to be dismissed before a user can access the main content.
- Implementing a page layout where the above-the-fold portion of the site appears similar to a standalone interstitial; however, the original content is actually inline underneath the fold.
You can also change display frequency for interstitial ads to be shown to unique users. This ensures users won't continue to be served too many ads or the same ads repeatedly.
Interstitial Ads Penalty Exceptions
While committing the above actions will most likely see their website drop in the SERP rankings, not all interstitials will incur a penalty. There are certain universally acceptable interstitials that users will undoubtedly be familiar with, which Google states will not be affected by the new signal.
1. Cookie Usage Interstitials
Not only is this an accepted interstitial ad, in some parts of the world, such as the European Union(EU), it is a mandatory requirement, with the intent of giving users more power over the data they provide websites. Businesses in the EU must display interstitial ads outlining their cookies policy or face fines into the millions depending on the size of their business.
2. Age Verification Interstitials
Google also allows websites to place interstitial ads for the purpose of age verification on sites that contain, for example, adult content or the sale of alcohol. These websites will ask users to enter their date of birth to confirm they are legally allowed to purchase alcohol. In many countries, these interstitial consent forms are not only permissible but are also mandated by law.
3. Page-to-Page Interstitials
Interstitial ads that pop up when users move between a website's pages are acceptable, as long as those pages cannot be found in an organic Google Search.
4. Crossing a Paywall
Many high-end, popular, and news media sites employ interstitial paywall ads to encourage users to pay for premium content. This is standard practice for web and app publishers expending a large amount of money and resources to create high-quality content.
Interstitial Ads: Best Practices
As we can see, interstitial ads certainly have their place, particularly for app developers looking to monetize mobile games and mobile sites.
However, with Google quick to penalize interstitial advertising that doesn't appear at natural transition points, mobile marketers must integrate interstitial ads according to the following best practice guidelines.
1. Prioritize User Experience
When placing interstitial ads in programmatic advertising, it is essential to prioritize the user experience first and foremost. Interstitial ads work best in linear user experiences, meaning that the ads should appear at natural stop and start points within the app, complementing the natural flow of the app.
It is recommended that ads appear before the break page or the point where the user needs to click next or continue. This is because it has been shown that ads that appear immediately after a user clicks a button can be surprising, leading to accidental clicks, and ultimately, a lowered conversion rate.
To further optimize interstitial ads for the user experience, designers should pause any app action while the ad is showing. Audio output from the main app should be halted, for example, to ensure users don't experience slow or unresponsive graphics while the ad is playing. Also, it is good practice not to place ads during app load or as the app exits.
2. Implement the Right Number of Ads
Along with considering when and where to place interstitial ads within the user experience, publishers and advertisers need to consider how often they use interstitial ads.
With intrusive advertising being one of the top reasons people uninstall mobile apps, it is crucial not to flood the user with too many app interstitial ads, which ultimately annoys users and leads to lower user retention.
3. Exit Button Accessibility
There are few things more frustrating than searching for seemingly invisible exit buttons on pop-up ads, and interstitial ads are no exception here. While most users understand that free mobile apps require advertising to fund their existence, they will quickly lose their tolerance for advertising if they feel they are being “spammed”.
While many advertisers will opt for a timeout feature—whereby an ad must be viewed for a certain period before it can be skipped or exited—best practices should again prevail here.
Firstly, developers should ensure:
- It is clear to users how long this “timeout” will last for
- Users have the option to skip where available
- Users have the option to exit
- Users can clearly see the interstitial ad exit button, and it is not camouflaged by muted colors or other deliberately placed objects
4. Follow Google Guidelines
Google’s guidelines on implementing interstitial ads makes similar suggestions to the above points while also suggesting that developers factor in the potential for ad latency.
In other words, app publishers need to understand that carrier network complications can create unanticipated interstitial ad interactions. As such, it might be worthwhile pre-loading interstitial ads to reduce latency.
Interstitial Ad Examples
When designed and implemented with care, interstitial ads can be truly engaging. Here are some recent examples of effective interstitial ads.
Playable Interstitial Ad: Moet and Chandon
Moet and Chandon created a playable interstitial ad that allowed users to play a short game. This interactive campaign was extremely successful for the brand.
Rewarded Interstitial Ad: Adventure Duck
Rewarded interstitial ads have a high conversion rate due to the fact they offer the user something while referring back to the app the user is already interacting with. Adventure Duck nailed this concept with a recent ad campaign, as seen below.
When a user finishes a level (or loses a level) they are informed that they can watch a video to gain more lives and continue playing.
Advantages of Interstitial Ads
There are several reasons why interstitial advertising is preferred over other ad formats. Let's look at why publishers love this ad type so much.
1. Interstitial Ads Are Comprehensive
An interstitial ad is not limited to just text, meaning there are no restrictions on how you promote material. It is easy to construct rich media ads that blend a combination of text, images, and video.
2. Interstitial Ads are Engaging
Interstitial ads' full-screen overly can capture the target audience's attention, making for an interactive experience while the user waits for a web page to load or a game's next activity or level to appear.
3. User Engagement and High Viewability
Interstitial advertising has a higher viewability than banner ads owing to its prominence. A full-screen advertisement is difficult to ignore, resulting in higher user engagement.
Furthermore, because the consumer can skip the ad, it isn't as bothersome as most other internet ads.
4. Multi-Platform Application
Interstitial advertisements have traditionally been found mainly on mobile platforms and within applications. However, these ads are becoming more common on desktop browsers, providing publishers with a lucrative revenue stream.
5. High CPMs
While interstitial ads can be considered more intrusive than other ad types, they are also more likely to catch people's attention.
This makes them more valuable to advertisers, who are willing to pay more to publishers for the chance to reach potential customers. This is particularly true on Android, with a study by Appodeal finding that eCPMs for interstitial ads in mature markets had surpassed those for iOS and ranged from $5.26 in the UK to $10.11 in the US.
6. High Click-Through-Rates
Due to the unignorable nature of interstitial ads, along with the fact users only have two options—click the ad or click the exit button, the CTRs on these ads tend to be quite high, making them valuable ad inventory for publishers.
Disadvantages of Interstitial Ads
While interstitial ads have some advantages, there are a few disadvantages to consider. Social media giant Meta says interstitial ads, both of the static and video variety, are one of the most disruptive and irritating forms of in-app ads.
1. Skews Analytics
Interstitial ads can skew analytics, especially when considering accidental misclicks. Misclicks will raise the CTR rate and depress the click-to-install (CTI) rate.
Understanding the relationship between CTR and CTI is key to being able to judge an ad campaign’s performance accurately. An artificially inflated CTR undermines the ability to do that.
2. Can Disrupt the User Experience
While there are clear guidelines around the implementation of these pop-up ads, an interstitial ad by its very nature is designed to be somewhat intrusive.
While this leads to high viewability it can be annoying and disruptive as it takes up the whole screen, interrupting the content’s flow. They can be particularly disruptive if incorrectly implemented in gaming apps as they can slow down the game if not loaded quickly and distract the player.
3. Google Penalties for Incorrect Implementation
When implementing interstitial ads on a mobile site, publishers need to ensure they follow all of Google’s guidelines and recommendations for display ads. Publishers should ensure they are up to date with the latest Google Developer Program policies to ensure they are not penalized for incorrect interstitial implementation.
4. Slow Load Times
Interstitial ads have a slow load time because they are generally larger in size than other types of ads, affecting core web vitals. They also tend to be more complex, with more graphics and interactive elements.
Slow load times and latency issues are frustrating for users because they result in a poor user experience. Users are likely to abandon a website or app if it takes too long to load, which can lead to lost revenue for businesses.
Publishers can evaluate load times using a range of tools including Largest Contentful Paint.
How Much Do Interstitial Ads Pay?
Interstitial ads pay a relatively high amount, however, as with all marketing metrics, there are several factors at play, including the operating device, the user's location and more.
A the previously mentioned Appodeal study revealed the top five relevant eCPM countries for interstitial ads for iOS are the US ($9.64), Japan ($6.86), Australia ($5.98), China ($5.12), and Canada ($4.95).
For Android, the top 5 are the US ($10.11), Australia ($8.62), Canada ($7.41), Japan ($6.92), and New Zealand ($6.65).
What Is the Best Frequency Capping for Interstitial Ads?
To ensure the user experience is not disrupted, Google sets the frequency capping for interstitial ads at one interstitial ad per hour for each unique user.
This ensures an interstitial ad is not seen by the same user repeatedly.
Direct Traffic to Dedicated Landing Pages
While the above guidelines focus on best practices when a user scrolls within an app, what happens if and when they click on this ad?
While getting a click is great, conversion is ultimately where the money is. Rather than sending viewers to a brand webpage, advertisers should consider creating targeted post-click landing pages designed specifically to convert new customers to their brand.
When implemented thoughtfully, interstitial ads are a fantastic ad format, particularly for publishers who work predominantly with the mobile web.
At Publift we can help you create effective interstitial mobile ads and interstitial desktop ads to increase downloads, increase click-through rates and ultimately maximize their advertising revenue.
Interstitial ads are one of the most profitable mobile advertising formats. So, is it a good idea to run interstitial ads?
Well, the answer to that question is for you to decide. Interstitial ads are a complicated topic that requires some careful thought before deciding whether or not they are a suitable fit for your business. Interstitial ads must balance between producing income and providing a good user experience.
Interstitials can be a highly profitable and effective way to display ads if you collaborate with a monetization partner such as Publift, where we use best practices. It is vital that you ensure that none of your adverts irritates or frustrates your users.
Publift helps digital publishers get the most out of the ads on their websites. Publift has helped its clients realize an average 55% uplift in ad revenue since 2015, through the use of cutting-edge programmatic advertising technology paired with impartial and ethical guidance.
If you’re making more than $2,000 in monthly ad revenue, contact us today to learn more about how Publift can help increase your ad revenue and best optimize the ad space available on your website or app.
What Are Interstitial Ads?
Interstitial ads are full-screen interactive ads that entirely cover the interface of their host site or app. Usually, these ads are placed at natural transition points or breaks, such as in-between game levels and engaging activities to increase user engagement.
An interstitial ad is a kind of banner ad that can be found on both desktop and mobile (iOS and Android full-screen ads). Their full coverage feature is what differentiates them from other different ad types, like native, pop-up, and banner ads.
Interstitial ad types include image, text, video, and rich media. Users can simply click or tap on the ad to visit its final destination or close it to continue doing what they were already doing.
What Is an Interstitial Screen?
An interstitial screen is a type of ad that appears on a web page between the user's requested content and the content itself.
The interstitial page usually contains a countdown timer or a "Skip Ad" button that allows the user to bypass the ad and continue to the requested content.
When Should You Display in Interstitial Ads?
It is recommended to display interstitial ads before the break page appears rather than after. Often break pages expect a user to tap a "Next button" (or equivalent).