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Study: Which digital ad formats are most effective?

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A new report published by mobile ad company Kargo found that ad viewability does not directly correlate to memorability. Similarly, the report also indicated that ad visibility does not necessarily yield higher user engagement. 

Kargo’s study distinguished the correlation between viewability of an ad unit and its memorability (ad effectiveness), examining the following formats: Instagram ads, large format in-article mobile ads, Kargo pinned mobile ads, mobile gaming in-app ads, and desktop ads.

Study: Which digital ad formats are most effective? 1

Viewability vs. memorability across digital ad formats

Instagram among the highest in ad effectiveness. Despite the low share of sessions reported at 1.9%, Instagram proved to be 8.3x more effective than gaming and 5.4x more than desktop with 77% of participants looking at an ad at some point during their session. Instagram generated an ad effectiveness score of 10.8%, which was also matched by large-format in-article mobile ads.

Large-format in-article ads just as effective as Instagram ads. These ads also scored 10.8% in ad effectiveness with 4.1% share of sessions. The ads had a 50% viewability rate. The study determined that mobile web ads offer a lucrative format for amplifying social efforts within existing contextual environments.

Kargo’s pinned mobile ads 2x more effective than desktop ads. Kargo’s “Breakout” and “Sidekick” ad units – which display as a fixed block at the bottom of articles – ranked third in ad effectiveness at 3.9% with 90% viewability. By using a basic banner format and adding animation, these smaller format units were analyzed to test if creative enhancements alone could result in a higher share of session and attention.

In-app gaming banner ads showed lowest ad effectiveness.  While in-app game banners were highly visible (90% viewability) according to Kargo’s study, they were rarely looked at and resulted in only 1.3% ad effectiveness. Almost 98.5% of the time that the ad was in-view, it was not being looked at, and claimed only 1.5% share of total sessions. Furthermore, ad recall for these ads was extremely low, with participants claiming there were no lasting impressions around the brands or products being advertised.

Desktop banners second-lowest ad effectiveness of all platforms. Kargo exposed participants to sidebar banner ads on desktop. While these ads had an 80% viewability rate, they were only looked at an average of 1.9% of the total session time and represented 2% ad effectiveness.

Ad recall by platform

In addition to tracking viewability, Kargo also measured the effectiveness of each platform by how well respondents accurately recall the brands that were advertised.

Among the respondents who were exposed to at least one ad, pinned mobile web ads and large format in-article ads outperformed the other platforms in ad recall by 29%.

Additionally, participants in the mobile web group were tasked with selecting the brands they recall from a list, of which 60% selected at least one of the four brands tested.

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Source: Kargo | Mobile web recall is significantly higher than gaming or desktop at 90% confidence | Base: Total respondents exposed to at least one ad; Mobile web n=126, Game n=119, Instagram n=107, Desktop n=112

Why we should care

The study findings indicate that in-app gaming and pinned mobile web ads demonstrated the highest rate of viewability, despite in-app ads producing extremely low ad recall. In contrast, Instagram and in-article mobile ads yielded the highest ad effectiveness and ad recall – while not being considered the most viewable.

“In order to deliver a successful ad experience today, brands need to consider if their creatives actually depict a clear message and resonate with consumers,” said Harry Kargman, CEO and founder of Kargo.

Factors such as ad creative, messaging, and digital placement can greatly impact how consumers are exposed to ads, and whether or not they are memorable.

The metric of viewability implies that an ad format has a greater opportunity to make an impression on audiences the longer it’s in-view, but Kargo’s findings show that viewability alone isn’t a consistent indicator of the ad’s lasting effect. Digital advertisers should consider that while an ad may have been “viewable,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was memorable.


About The Author

Study: Which digital ad formats are most effective? 3

Taylor Peterson is Third Door Media’s Deputy Editor, managing industry-leading coverage that informs and inspires marketers. Based in New York, Taylor brings marketing expertise grounded in creative production and agency advertising for global brands. Taylor’s editorial focus blends digital marketing and creative strategy with topics like campaign management, emerging formats, and display advertising.





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