Glossary
Ad unit
Ad unit
Ad units are the specific areas where advertisements are displayed on websites, mobile apps, and other digital platforms. Ad units come in various forms and are a useful monetization tool for marketers.

What is an ad unit? 

An ad unit refers to the individual advertising space placed within digital platforms. Each website or mobile app can designate the placement, quantity, format, and type of ad units to use. Once these units are created and open for bidding, ad servers run through their interface to pick the most fitting ad to deliver to each ad unit. Each ad unit and ad creative is coded so that ad partners, marketers, and analytics tools can keep track of the ad unit’s activity.

Publishing ads on ad units can be a useful tool for monetization and growing brand awareness. The level of profit and growth depends on the amount of valuable traffic the ad retains, which is also used to measure the effectiveness of the ad campaign. 

Ad unit formats 

Ad units come in various formats and types, and marketers can choose to use any option that fits the context and target audience. Each ad unit that serves an ad is paid for, and pricing levels vary depending on the format. Below are the most commonly used ones. 

Banner ads

Banner ads are one of the most popular and easily implementable forms of ads. It is a rectangular advertisement displayed at the top or bottom of an app or webpage and remains on the screen while users interact with the page. They can hold text, images, or rich media such as videos. 

Overlay ads

Overlay ads appear on top of the user’s screen, covering the content beneath it. They can include images, rich media, and text, usually with eye-catching content that can grab the user’s attention at first sight. There are several variations to overlay ads:

  • App open overlay ads: The ad pops up on a user’s screen when they open or switch back into the app and takes up the entire screen. The ad expands when clicked on, but users also have a button to hide it.  
  • Overlay with companion banners: Mostly used for YouTube ads - these ads are rectangular banners that appear on the bottom of a YouTube video being played. They are expanded when interacted with, but users have the option to hide them. 

Native ads

Native ads are created in a way that blends in extremely well with the rest of the page or app content. They are purposely made to look seamless with everything else on display to give a more natural and organic feel. They are less intrusive and more positively engaged with compared to traditional ads that may seem overly intentional. 

Rewarded ads

Rewarded ads require user interaction with the ad where they are rewarded with some sort of compensation when they complete the requested task. They are mainly used for in-app ads, users may be required to watch a video, complete a survey, or play a mini-game in exchange for a reward. Playable ads (in-app mini-games) and offerwall ads are variations of rewarded ads. 

Interstitial ads

Interstitial ads are immersive ads that cover the entire interface of the app or website. They are highly noticeable by appearing between content at transition points or breaks, such as between game levels. They are typically centered on the screen on web pages and occupy the full screen on apps, ensuring maximum visibility. 

Video ads

There are separate ad units designated for video ads, which are growing in popularity on streaming services like YouTube and provide users with a more interactive experience than static ads. Video ad units come in various formats: 

  • Skippable in-stream ads: These ads appear between, before, or after a video and users can skip the ad after a few seconds. 
  • Non-skippable in-stream ads: These ads also appear between, before, or after a video, but users do not have the option to skip the video so they view the whole message. They usually have a limit of 15-20 seconds for maximum length. 
  • Bumper ads: They are very short and quick videos that play between, before, or after a video during the transition point. The maximum length for YouTube bumper ads is 6 seconds. 
  • Outstream ads: Outstream video ads are mobile-only and usually appear in the form of banners, interstitials, or native ads. They play automatically when a user encounters the ad but without sound. The video can be unmuted and interacted with if the user wishes to.
  • In-feed ads: In-feed video ads are shown in search results or feeds. They typically use the same format as the rest of the content on display, with a title and thumbnail preview of the ad. 
  • Masthead ads: Masthead ads are shown as the headliner video on a homepage or main screen of an app. They appear at the top of the screen and are autoplayed without sound with the option to unmute. Masthead ads are pricey and large-scale but effective for promoting to a massive audience in a short amount of time. 

How to choose the right ad unit 

Marketers have a multitude of options to choose from when it comes to advertising, and it is crucial that they use a format and size that is cohesive with the brand and campaign goals. Ads tend to be a nuisance to users and are commonly overlooked or blocked. Hence, marketers should find the most optimal variation and design that can provide a positive perception and make their content stand out. The ad units should also be within the marketing budget and a worthy investment that will generate a high return on investment (ROI)

Once the ads are published, the evaluation process also matters. Marketers should track the performance of their ads to ensure that they are using the proper ad units. Using web analytics tools and mobile measurement partners (MMPs) like Airbridge can facilitate the tracking process and offer personalized measurements that can be incorporated into future marketing campaigns. 

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