The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Banner Ads

July 14, 2021

Mobile banner advertising has been around since the beginning of mobile marketing, and when implemented correctly, they can still play an essential role in the digital marketing mix. Banner ads are relatively quick and easy to set up and have a high viewability due to their positioning on the page.

A mobile banner ad is a rectangular system-initiating ad unit that can be static or animated depending on its design. Banner advertising generally stays on the screen for the duration of the user session and is typically displayed at the top or the bottom of the screen.  

These ad units can be set to refresh automatically after a certain amount of time. Mobile banner advertising is an effective way for companies to build brand awareness, particularly when best practice is followed.

This guide covers how to create, scale and serve banner ads for app publishers. 

Mobile Digital Advertising and Banner Ads 

With mobile advertising overtaking in-app purchases as the primary revenue generator for publishers, creating mobile campaigns should be at the forefront of publishers’ digital marketing strategy. 

However, with brand safety awareness on the rise and consumers becoming more discerning when it comes to display advertising, boring, static banner ads no longer cut it when it comes to the mobile ad format.

Standard banner ads have been shown to cause banner blindness, a form of selective attention whereby users consciously or subconsciously ignore ad content presented to them in banner advertising. 

By following best practices, publishers can overcome this blindness and create campaigns that deliver a solid ROI.

Mobile Banner Design and Best Practices

The Basics


Banner ad size options

There are several options for advertisers when it comes to mobile banner ad sizes, as seen in the above table.

Standard Banner 320 x 50: The banner size most commonly used by app developers is the standard banner. It is generally seen at the top or bottom of app content and is popular for gaming apps. 

Medium Rectangular Banner, 300 x 250: Unlike small and large banner ads that typically sit at the top or bottom of mobile content, the medium rectangular banner generally appears in the middle of app content as users scroll through an app. The larger size means advertisers can include more information to highlight key features of the product or service being advertised.

Large Banner 320 x 90: The large mobile banner is slightly larger than the standard size, occupying more app real estate. This size works well with animated banners and video banners due to its increased size.

Smart Banners: Smart banners are ad units that can detect the width and orientation of the device and serve the ad in the appropriate size. Three ad sizes are implemented with smart banners:

Smart banner size options for mobile devices


Example of Effective Logo Use in Banner Ad

With limited real estate to work with, digital publishers serving banner ads need to make the most of the space available to them. However, that doesn’t mean loading their mobile ads with as much information as possible; in fact, quite the opposite. Visually overwhelming banners interfere with the user’s app journey.

Ideally, app publishers will want to create an ad that is eye-catching but not intrusive. 

The best banner ads use a clean, minimalistic design that stays on brand.

When designing how a company logo will work within this format, consider the following:

  • Try different layouts to work out the best placement for your logo
  • Create high contrast graphics where the logo stands out from the rest of the ad
  • Give the symbol space to speak to the audience
  • Bigger is not always better

Keep in mind that Google penalizes ads that create a disruptive and intrusive experience for users, so keep your designs sleek and easy on the eye (and ears).

Copy is King

Most people working in digital publishing will have heard the term ‘copy (or content) is king’, and while it is true that content is key to mobile ad campaigns, quantity does not necessarily equal quality.

Brand advertisers- particularly those working on an industry-specific branding campaign- who are used to creating for desktop can often fall into the trap of filling their ads with too much copy when they move their ads to a mobile screen.

However, the best examples of a mobile banner ad keep their copy brief and to the point with a clear and straightforward call to action(CTA).

When creating mobile advertising campaigns, media agencies should consider the following:

  • Use as few typefaces as possible to keep your ad visually streamlined and as classic as possible
  • Apply the same rules in regards to high contrast, ensure that the copy stands out visually from the background
  • Keep your messaging (and typefaces) standard across all your mobile campaigns

The call to action is one of the most critical elements of the copy in all display advertising. It should be short, snappy, and to the point. The message should drive the exact action you want your audience to take. 

Here are some notes on best practices:

  • Play around with the positioning of your CTA button to ensure maximum visibility
  • Ensure you are not duplicating your banner message in your CTA
  • Keep mobile device size in mind and make sure CTA buttons are big enough for your audience’s fingers

Use HTML5 Tools

HTML5 tool for use with various ad formats

When it comes to mobile advertising, consumers have spoken, with a recent study showing that 68% of people agree with the statement, "I'm fine with seeing ads but only if they are not annoying.”

In light of this, advertisers should be making the most of HTML5 technology to create mobile ads for in-app advertising.

HTML5 tools provide a complete environment for creating mobile ads with rich media,  using templates or components to build ads, and including features like video, geo-location, and mobile calls to action.

When app developers are deciding upon which HTML5 tools to use to create ads for the mobile web, IAB recommends they should look for tools that include the following features:

  • Generate universal tags to enable cross-platform delivery  
  • Support animations and other rich media elements
  • The ability to import animations and custom HTML from other tools
  • Provide components to build ads without the need for manual coding 
  • Support IAB MRAID  and other web standards
  • Deliver ads that are lightweight and optimized for mobile platforms

Best practice for HTML5 states most ad networks have a max loop length for animated banner ads, with shorter ads being more effective for mobile audiences.


En-Rich Your Mobile Advertising with Media and Video

Video and animation are just as effective on mobile as they are on desktop, yet they are still widely underutilized in the mobile banner arena. Ads that include rich media, such as a mobile video ad or an animated native ad, are far more likely to drive user engagement and build positive awareness of a brand.

Adding media to your ad can create an interactive experience for your audience.

Using video in-banner is becoming more and more popular; videos can act as a compelling background, be used to out stream, or as part of an HTML5 animation.

What To Avoid When Creating Mobile Ads

People have long memories when it comes to advertising; one bad, intrusive ad experience with a brand can turn a person off the company for life.

In 2019, the Forbes Agency Council gathered 13 digital advertising experts to discuss what alienates consumers when it comes to advertising. This advice can be applied to all ad types but is particularly relevant to mobile banner design, where advertisers have limited space to positively impact potential customers. 

Here are the things to avoid.

Confusing and Annoying Content

Perhaps the most crucial point in creating a mobile ad is to make sure the content is of value to the user, as well as being visually appealing. Confusing and annoying content is the quickest way to lose your audience. Create content that is simple, concise, and in line with your brand’s message. 

Lack Of Personalization

Mass marketing campaigns that fail to use personalization can end up feeling generic and lose their appeal.   At Publift, we help our clients target their prospects with personalized programmatic advertising.

Considering your users’ location, age, gender, and interests means you can serve ads for mobile devices that are relevant to your audience. The ad below is a wonderful example of targeted advertising, with a banner ad for Fitcover, a makeup designed for athletes, appearing above an article about running.

Poor Placement

Media buyers purchasing advertising space know that there is a true art to ad placement, which, when perfected, can do wonders for building a brand’s image and creating return on investment for advertisers and publishers alike. 

While low-cost advertising inventory may be appealing, to begin with, poorly targeted placements, low-value inventory, and multiple spots running on the same page can ultimately do damage and cost publishers at the end of the day.

Crossing The Line

Dove ad for mobile apps which crossed the line

In striving to be edgy and gain consumer’s attention, some brands can end up crossing the line. There is often a fine line between being witty and offensive, which can easily be crossed if left unchecked.  This ultimately leads to negative press and a decline in user respect. Advertisers should strive to ensure their message doesn’t alienate or disrespect any segment of the community, whether they are part of the intended audience or not.

The above ad by Dove is one such example of where advertising has crossed the line. In the Facebook banner ad for Dove body wash, a black woman removes her top and metamorphizes into a white woman. Dove subsequently removed the ad, and the brand publicly apologized for its misdemeanor.

Click Baiting

Clickbait banner ad example

With so much clutter and noise in the mobile banner ecosystem, it can be tempting to create a banner ad that is clickbait-y in nature. While these ads tend to guarantee at least some level of engagement, the long-term payoff is poor and can ultimately harm a brand’s reputation. 

Keep your digital advertising message truthful and on-brand. It will pay off in the long run.

Political and Cultural Misappropriation

Kendall Jenner stars in Pepsi ad

Several ad campaigns have come under fire recently for cultural misappropriation and being too politically driven. Remember the Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Kenner? 

While studies have shown that Americans are okay with brands stepping into political territory, putting a foot out of place can be detrimental to the brand and everyone involved. Publishers need to carefully consider whether serving ads with a political overtone will serve their application or harm it.

Mobile banners are still one of the most popular ad formats available due to their high visibility and easy implementation. However, with studies showing that native ad campaigns receive 53% more views than banner ads, publishers and advertisers need to follow best practice and avoid the pitfalls of poor mobile banner ad implementation.

This includes thinking carefully about banner ad sizes, creative elements, media, messaging content, and ad placement.

Creators should segment and target their audience but without alienating other members of the online community.

With so much to consider, why not let the friendly team at Publift help? 

Our ad management system can be managed remotely, taking the guesswork out of ad serving so that you can do what you do best- create great content.

Fuse, Publift’s all-in-one programmatic advertising solution, is conveniently built to function after a one-time implementation. Simply set up your tags once and stay optimized for a lifetime. Once your tags are on the page, our expert team will test, analyze and optimize your setup to maximize revenue. New partners, new demand, new technology, and new ad layouts can be added with just the click of a button. You won't need to change the code on your page from an advertising perspective ever again.

Contact our friendly team today to learn more.

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