Types of Display Ads

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Display advertising is one of the best ways to raise awareness of your brand, product or service. Types of display ads include responsive ads, retargeting (or remarketing) ads, native ads and social ads. There are also many options for display targeting, such as interest targeting, contextual targeting and topic targeting.

Before we explain the qualities of each ad type and how they work, let’s go over some basic definitions.

What Are Display Ads?

When someone talks about a display ad, they generally mean an ad that has the following attributes:

  • It is an image or is image-based (static or animated).
  • Ad placement is brokered directly or through a display network such as the Google Display Network.
  • The advertising is being used to promote a brand, service, product or offering.
  • It is not a search ad. (Keep reading to learn more about this.)

Together, these characteristics define the taxonomy of Display Ads.

Identifying the Types of Display Ads

Banners, square images with text, animations – these are all forms of display ads you have experienced. The world’s first display ad was a banner ad that appeared in 1994. An amazing 44% of people who saw it clicked on it! From the first generation of display ads, a convention developed of using self-contained images with a call-to-action in a variety of square and rectangle sizes.

Since that time, display advertising has matured and developed specialized types, including these:

  • Traditional Display Ads: These are the ads that are most associated with display advertising, consisting of landscape, square and skyscraper image sizes. These ads are primarily image based with some text and are primarily placed on websites.
Display ads for Adobe Stock Images
  • Responsive Display Ads: These are a type of display ad that is based on multiple text headlines, descriptions and images that the ad-platform algorithm uses to place, size, and orient an ad in various combinations. The platform determines the best-performing format for the specified audience.
Display ad for Buckwheat de Goldendoodle
  • Retargeting Display Ads: Retargeting (or remarketing) is when a display ad is shown to people who have visited your web property – usually a specific page or set of pages – in a specified time frame but not yet completed the desired action. Retargeting display ads are a great vehicle for personalized content.
Display ad for Southwest Airlines
  • Native Ads: Native display ads are designed and placed in the same style as the content of the website, email, etc. You see native ads as promoted or recommended content on various sites, but they usually don’t look like ads at all.
Screenshot from Entrepreneur highlighting sponsored content to Attract More Customres
  • Social Ads: These are ads you see on social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Like responsive display ads, they are a combination of text and images with a CTA.
Mobile display ad for Airbnb
  • Discovery Ads: Discovery ads are a form of native ads that use machine learning to showcase image assets in the most appropriate format for the user. Discovery ads appear on YouTube search results, Watch Next, Gmail social and promotion tabs, and the Google Discover results.
Three mobile display ads for UGG

How to Use Display Ads


When you’re developing display ads, the way you design your creative asset (i.e., the image itself) should be determined by the channel, campaign type and placement. Things to consider include your call to action or CTA (e.g., “Learn More”), the value proposition, tagline, business name and logo. And don’t forget colors and other imagery and the emotions they can invoke.


The most common and effective display ads come in several standard sizes. For example, Google’s display network lists sizes for both mobile and desktop display ads.

The sizes that Oneupweb’s paid media team uses the most are below, in pixels:

  • Google Display Network
    • 300 x 250
    • 728 x 90
    • 120 x 60
  • Social Networks
    • 1080 x 1080
    • 1200 x 768

Display Networks

Determine where to place your display ads based on available audience targeting, your budget, etc.

  • Google Display Network
  • YouTube
  • Gmail
  • Social Networks


Next, choose who will see your ads. Here are some common types of display targeting: 

  • Contextual Targeting
    • Contextual targeting uses behavior-based keywords, topics or specific URLs to reach the target user. The ad platform algorithm then analyzes user browsing history and website content to best match your targeting selection with an ad placement.
  • Interest Targeting
    • Interest targeting will use predefined or custom audiences known as “affinity,” “in-market” to reach consumers based on what they are most commonly searching. Ads are placed based on web content that best matches the audience selected for targeting.
  • Remarketing/Retargeting
    • Remarketing serves ads to users that have previously interacted with your web property within a specified time frame but without completing a desired action. A large variety of interactions can be used for retargeting – like users visiting a specific page (or combination of pages), spending a certain amount of time on site or viewing a certain number of pages. 

Display Ads vs. Search Ads: How Are They Different?

Search ads are based on the intent the user demonstrates based on their query in a search engine. Search ads are text based, they appear on search engine results pages (SERP) and they cannot be blocked by ad blockers. Display ads are shown to users based on affinity (what they have been interested in) and/or intent (what they have been looking for and at). Since display ads most often are being served from an ad network domain, a user can easily block them with an ad blocker.

Do Paid Advertising Even Better

From search to social to programmatic, there’s a lot of opportunity to be found in paid media. Whether you’re looking for consultation, creative or full-on campaign management, Oneupweb’s experts would be glad to support your marketing objectives. Call (231) 922-9977 or complete our contact form to strike up the conversation.

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