What Are Leaderboard Ads?

Brock Munro
June 1, 2022
June 27, 2024
What Are Leaderboard Ads?

Online ads come in different “shapes and sizes”. Among them, leaderboard ads stand out for being easy-to-use and efficient. This article talks about how and why leaderboards should be used.

According to Statista, it is estimated that around $566 billion will be spent on global digital advertising in 2022 alone. This figure is forecast to increase in upcoming years, surpassing $700 billion by 2025. Online advertising is therefore here to stay.

There are many different types of ads and banners in online advertising. Leaderboard ads are one of the most popular banner ads among advertisers and publishers alike.

Read on to learn everything publishers need to know about leveraging leaderboard ads to maximize ad revenue.

What Are Leaderboard Banner Ads?

A leaderboard ad is a display ad that is 728 pixels wide by 90 pixels tall. It is usually placed at the top of the page, usually in a prominent position, so that it is visible immediately after the page loads.

A leaderboard ad may also be referred to as a 728×90 ad, a leaderboard banner, or a super banner (when it is even bigger). Due to their size and position—usually at the beginning of a webpage—leaderboard ads are among the top-performing ads in Google Ads.

The term “leaderboard” is borrowed from the large sports leaderboards that display the number of points a team has during a game. In online advertising, a leaderboard ad is essentially a large banner, available as either text, high-quality images, or a mix of both. Their format means that they are horizontal ads—in contrast to skyscraper ads, which run vertically.

Why Use Leaderboard Advertising?

Leaderboard ads are only one part of the digital advertising landscape.

Publishers and advertisers alike have many options when it comes to choosing the best type of ads for their businesses. A common dilemma, for example, is that of choosing programmatic vs. display ads

But no matter the approach to doing display ads (automated or manual), you need to consider that banner ads themselves also come in different forms; leaderboard advertising is just one of them.

Display advertising is used by digital advertisers to improve brand awareness and increase a campaign's reach. For example, the Google Display Network offers access to over 90% of internet users. Good display banners serve as good ad placements that can help a brand reach a wide audience, across many platforms, different devices, and throughout the day. However, to increase conversions (and eventually the ROI) on banner advertising, an ad campaign needs to be customized through demographic and contextual targeting.

Banner ads have been around for a while now. While they have been taken out of the limelight due to more "modern" and complex advertising techniques, banners are still present (and working) all over the internet.

Finally, a leaderboard ad can offer high visibility due to its size and on-page positioning. It can easily draw attention and collect high click-through rates.

4 Important Features of Leaderboards

While we have previously looked at why one should use leaderboard banner ads, in order to reap their benefits, we also need to understand how they work and how they can be used to their full potential.

Here are some features that make these ad units relevant for both advertisers and publishers:

1. Flexible Placement Options

While these are often used (and have great performance) right at the top of a web page, they can also be placed at the bottom of the page or among the page content. 

Placing a leaderboard ad at the bottom of the page or among the content may help the advertisers deal with "banner blindness"—or when a user ignores a banner just because he has gotten so used to seeing banner ads.

Another reason to put the banner in a different location is to make sure it is visible after a user scrolls down the website. 

To cover all possibilities, many advertisers choose to use these ad units both at the top and in-between the web page. Publishers also use this feature to increase ad viewability.

2. Adaptability of a Leaderboard Ad

A leaderboard banner ad can be seen on desktops, but also on tablet-optimized websites. Leaderboards support both text and image content, both static and dynamic content. All of these make them highly adaptable for different needs.  

Publishers can also benefit from expandable ads (728×270), which have a larger space to show off content. Thanks to this feature, expandable ads can help increase engagement and click-through rate (CTR).

3. Mobile Leaderboards

Mobile leaderboards, or smartphone leaderboards, are designed to offer a good user experience on mobile devices. They are a type of leaderboard made particularly for these devices.  

Mobile leaderboard ads (320×50) perform well on Google AdSense. They are listed under “anchor ads”—the ad units are placed at the bottom of the page and stay in view as the mobile user scrolls down the web page.

4. Super Leaderboards

These leaderboards are larger than a regular leaderboard banner ad, providing even more room for content. They are also known as ‘large leaderboards’ and in this case, the leaderboard ad size is 970×90.  

Using super leaderboard ads may help publishers deal with banner blindness as their size can draw the visitors' attention.

4 Types of Leaderboard Advertising Campaigns

As with most things in advertising, leaderboard ads come in different forms and may serve many purposes. Here are the four types of banner advertising campaigns according to how leaderboard ads are used:

1. Brand Awareness

This can be considered the most basic type of leaderboard ad campaign. In this case, the main objective of the display campaign is to get the brand name or message displayed in front of as many users as possible. When properly placed, leaderboard ads are a good fit for this type of campaign.

The success of a brand awareness geared campaign will be measured mainly based on the number of impressions and reach.

2. Lead Generation

When leaderboard ads are used for lead generation purposes, the ad unit is designed to support direct interaction between the target audience and the ad. The goal is to lead the audience to another website and to perform an action—e.g., offer their contact details, subscribe to a newsletter, make a purchase, etc.

This type of leaderboard ad uses advanced banners and rich media, often having interactive elements such as in-banner search or product feeds. Success is often measured through click-through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC).

3. Affiliate Marketing

In this case, the publisher (website) promotes the advertisement of an advertiser or an affiliate network for a fee. The publisher gets paid for every conversion or sale generated by the leaderboard ad.

Oftentimes, these ads are designed to grab attention through their design or by promoting a unique or interesting offer.

4. Retargeting

As a popular marketing approach in recent years, retargeting involves presenting an ad unit to users based on their previous behaviors such as a previous interaction with a website.

In this case, the intention behind the ad campaign is to bring the users back to where they had shown interest while encouraging them to take action.

The main goal of retargeting therefore is to convert a former visitor into a customer or subscriber.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Leaderboard Banner Ad?

Leaderboard ads have been around for a while and they don't seem to be going anywhere. They are very popular among advertisers, but if you want to use them, be aware of their advantages and disadvantages.

The Pros Of Leaderboard Banner Ads

1. Ease of Use

The overall design of leaderboard ads makes them easy to work with and extremely versatile. As opposed to other ad formats, leaderboard ads can easily be used by all designers and advertisers.

These ads can be easily sized to fit into any space on a website, and they are also easy to edit if they’re not getting good results. No technical expertise or coding is needed to create these ads.

2. A Good User Experience

In addition to leaderboard ads being easy to use by advertisers, they also provide a nice user experience for visitors.

When done right, a leaderboard banner ad can be attractive and less intrusive compared to other ad types—e.g., pop-up ads, interstitials, fly-in ads, etc.

3. Ad Server Acceptance

The format of these ads is a universally accepted ad format for all ad servers. This means that you shouldn't have any issues setting up a banner leaderboard ad and you won’t need to use special formatting or coding to display an ad.

The Cons Of Leaderboard Banner Ad

1. Familiarity

Unfortunately, the fact that banner ads have been around for a long time also means that website visitors have become familiar with them—maybe at times too familiar.

Unless you take a creative approach to your leaderboard banner ads, they can end up "blending in" with the rest of the content. The users may end up suffering from ad fatigue, which causes visitors to ignore all ads.

2. They Can Be Irritating

On the flip side of the coin, when advertisers try too hard to battle ad fatigue, you can end up with "flashy" and irritating ads.

To make ads stand out, advertisers will sometimes use rich media ads with too much movement or with bright text. However, this can irritate visitors and hurt CTR.

3. Ad Blockers

In the case of popular types of display ads, adblockers may affect the visibility of your banner ads. Unfortunately, this happens because the points mentioned above—familiarity and irritability—have driven at least a part of the audience to use an ad blocker.

9 Best Practices For Leaderboard Ads 

It’s important to follow these best practices when creating and publishing leaderboard ads.

1. Use High Quality Images

High-resolution visuals are hard to ignore. Choose graphics or images that are attention-grabbing, but still revenant. However, avoid images that are distracting.

2. Use a Single Headline

A straight-to-the-point message can emphasize what you’re offering and why the reader should check it out. Keep your headline short but commanding.

3. Pick a Typeface Style and Size That's Easy to Read

Consider using fonts such as Arial, Courier, and Verdana, which are considered the most legible online fonts, according to a study by the Software Usability and Research Laboratory (SURL). The text should also be large enough to be readable. Vary the font size to distinguish between headers and the body of the copy.

4. Use a CTA Button

A call to action (CTA) button can help direct your audience to your website. Ideally, it should be placed on the lower hand right side of the ad.

5. Write an High-Impact CTA

Adding a short instruction to encourage the reader to purchase your product or service can help drive CTRs. Use a sense of urgency to motivate clicks.

6. Keep Your Message Concise

Be brief when writing your message. It only takes 50 milliseconds for most users to form an impression about a website, according to a research study. Be sure to capture your audience’s attention with a direct message.

7. Leave Some White Space

Blocks of text need room to breathe to avoid leaving the ad feeling cramped. White space can help balance design layout and focus the audience's eye where you want it.

8. Experiment on Ad Placement

Test leaderboard ad locations to find the one that earns you the highest CTR. Although the top portion is usually the preferred spot, it may pay off to experiment with other positions.

9. Try Native Ads for Variety

Native ads—ads that match a website’s look and feel—can help ads blend into the page, providing a better user experience.

Should I Use Leaderboard Ads?

In short, yes. While leaderboard banners can at times be perceived as annoying and irritating, they can still help publishers and advertisers achieve marketing goals and monetize websites - when done right.

As with most things in online marketing, enough planning, and proper execution are needed for ad success. An ad unit that is shown in appropriate ad space and on a reliable ad network will have more success.

All in all, leaderboards ads are flexible, adaptable, and fit for various marketing purposes. As such, despite their "age", they can still bring benefits to website owners and marketers.

Publift helps digital publishers get the most out of the ads on their websites. It has been supporting clients to 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.

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