Getting Started With Sticky Ads

Brock Munro
July 29, 2021
April 22, 2024
Getting Started With Sticky Ads

Due to the exponential growth in digital advertising, there are more ad options available than ever for publishers looking to monetize their sites by selling ad space

But which ad unit to choose? In an age where users increasingly employ adblockers to cut through the digital noise and banner blindness is at an all-time high, publishers need to be making wiser choices to ensure ad viewability and ongoing ad revenue. 

Sticky ads were developed to counter these issues. 

Sticky ads are just that, ads that stick to the screen as a user scrolls down the page. This article discusses the technical aspects of sticky ads, their pros and cons, and how to get started. 


What Exactly is a Sticky Ad?

Sticky ads, or anchor ads, are ads that stay visibly afloat as a user scrolls through the content of a web page. The ad has a fixed position and sticks to the viewport for the duration of the user session, meaning that they remain visible to the user regardless of the browsing scroll depth. 

Sticky ads are available on both desktop and mobile devices. 

Types of Sticky Ads

There are two main types of sticky ads, the vertical and the horizontal sticky ad. These are the two sticky ad types made available by Google Ad Manager.

Horizontal and vertical sticky ads

Here is the lowdown.

Horizontal Sticky Ads

Horizontal sticky ads appear at the top or the bottom of the webpage and usually stretch across the entire screen in a landscape configuration. 

Vertical Sticky Ads

Vertical sticky ads are portrait size and appear vertically on the sidebar content of a webpage. 

Example of vertical sticky ads

Pros and Cons of Sticky Ads

With increasingly intrusive ad noise in the digital space, banner blindness has made it more and more difficult for advertisers to get users to see their ads, let alone click on them. 

However, when implemented correctly, sticky ads have the ability to overcome banner blindness without being overly intrusive or providing a lousy user experience.

Like all ad formats, sticky ads have both pros and cons. Publishers should carefully consider these before deciding whether sticky units are the right choice for their websites.

In general, sticky ads benefit both publishers(sell-side) and advertisers(buy-side) due to the increased ad viewability and dwell time.

Pros of Sticky Ads

  • Sticky ads provide increased viewability.
  • Sticky ads pass the minimum IAB and MRC ad viewability guidelines by default, that being that 50 percent of the display ad creative pixels are in view for a second.
  • Sticky ads are largely unobtrusive. Whereas other ad formats that offer higher viewability, can be annoying and intrusive, sticky ads are subtle and don’t intrude upon the web page’s organic content.
  • They have been shown to yield higher CPM and increase overall ad revenue
  • They can be targeted by header bidding and Google Ad Exchange, resulting in more auction pressure.
  • They can be customized for different device types.

Cons of Sticky Ads

  • Not all ad networks allow for the implementation of sticky ads. Facebook doesn’t allow for them at all, while Google AdSense disallows them unless you use their anchor ad unit. Breaking these rules can get publishers’ accounts banned.
  • Can negatively impact the performance of other ads on web pages
  • Sticky ads require a certain level of technical expertise in their deployment and customization
  • In some cases, particularly with large sticky ads, they can lead to a poor user experience

What the Metrics Say

Banner ads vs Sticky Ads

There is no doubt that metrics around sticky ads show they perform significantly better than other formats available.

Making Senses recently conducted a study of banner ads versus sticky ads to track ad performance. Using eye-tracking technology to isolate the reader’s focus within a page and AI technology to gauge the reader’s empathy engagement with both layouts for later comparison.

The results of the study found the following:

  • Sticky ads seriously outperformed banner ads, receiving nine times the amount of clicks. Participants looked at the anchor ads for 300% longer than the traditional banner ads in real-time terms.
  • When the ad was refreshed halfway through the view time, it caused a second spike in views, demonstrating sustained viewership.
  • Analysis of the related emotional data showed that while the banner ads caused feelings of fear, disgust, and sadness, the anchor ads were more likely to be remembered and recommended.

Sticky Ad Implementation in Google Ad Manager

Within the Google Display Network, sticky ads can be implemented on standard web pages- both desktop and mobile, standard Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and in-app.

When implementing sticky ads, publishers using a Google Ad Manager account must adhere to the following guidelines. 

First and perhaps most importantly, publishers must comply with the Google Ad Exchange seller program guidelines, staying particularly mindful of not overloading the page with too many ads.  Publishers must ensure that all ads accompanying organic content, including sticky ads, constitute less than the amount of content on the viewable screen or viewport.

Too many large anchor ads can get in the way of the organic page content and can lead publishers, particularly Ad Exchange and AdSense media-sellers being blocked from serving ads to Chrome users. 

Publishers can follow these guidelines when implementing this type of ad on their website:

  • Keep the width less than 300 px.
  • Ensure that it never covers more than 30% of the screen at any time (Chrome policy)
  • Only include one vertical sticky per viewport
  • Only include one horizontal sticky per page
  • Sticky ad must remain immobile in the browser at all times 
  • Ensure there is adequate whitespace between the ad inventory and content

Not all ad networks allow for sticky ad content. We recommend you check with your ad network partner before getting started. 

For publishers working with Google Ad Exchange, they must set up rules that declare their existence. This means filling out a new display publisher declaration. These publisher declarations apply to open auctions, private auctions, first look and open bidding.

Here’s how:

  1. Firstly, publishers need to sign into their Google Ad Manager Account.
  2. From here, click on Inventory >> AdExchange Rules >> Publisher Declarations.
  3. Next, select the Display inventory type.
  4. Click New display publisher declaration.
  5. Enter a name for your declaration.
  6. Select your ad targeting options.
  7. Finally, under Sticky Ads, select the checkbox to indicate that the chosen inventory serves either vertical or horizontal sticky ads.

While sticky ads can undoubtedly offer better viewability for advertisers and increased returns for publishers, this is largely dependent upon correct implementation and optimization. 

These ads need to be seamlessly integrated into site content without intrusion to ensure you reap the benefits available from this ad format.

Do your websites display sticky ads?

At Publift, we are a certified Google Partner specializing in programmatic advertising optimization to help grow your ad revenue.

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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