Create Engagement Ads to Get Around Banner Blindness

Create Engagement Ads to Get Around Banner Blindness

There’s no doubt that display advertising is extremely powerful – the reach and targeting is a savvy advertiser’s dream. But there’s also no doubt that consumers are desensitized to traditional banner advertising that is ubiquitous in the digital ecosystem. They often fall ill with a disease we like to call “banner blindness.” This sickness can affect everyone, no matter their age or location. It’s where they have become so used to being sold on the Internet with ads that they just no longer pay them any attention.

So the question remains: what can we do to cure banner blindness and re-engage the ad-jaded consumer? Two words: Engagements Ads.

Late last year Google released this new ad type. This unique and exciting new type of display ad fits in the traditional display units, but offers a media-rich experience that connects consumers with your brand like never before. At the heart of Engagement Ads is video that offers two main ad units – Lightbox and Hover-to-play.

The Standard Lightbox Ad

The Lightbox ad is truly interactive. It begins as a regular display ad, but when hovered over for two seconds expands to near full-screen. You can put video, games, or any other media you’d like. Check out the screenshot below.

Lightbox Ad

Catalog Lightbox

This is a great ad format that allows users to view your digital catalog, and you only pay when a user opens the catalog.  You can even see how many page flips and product views the user completed.  See the below video.

YouTube Masthead Lightbox

The idea behind this lightbox is that you can re-purpose an already created YouTube Masthead. Take a look at how it works in the video below.

+Post Ads

Want to promote your content and turn it into conversation? You can do just that with +Post ads. Once the user hovers over your ad, it pops up just as any other Lightbox ad, but the user can comment and engage with your content right in the ad. They can even  give a +1 or follow your brand.


The Hover-to-play unit is less sophisticated than a Lightbox ad, but no less useful.  When a user hovers over the starting image for more than two seconds, the video will begin to play, but there is no ad expansion.


Things to Know Before Getting Started

The reporting for Engagement Ads is not intuitive. Your ad’s engagement rate is in the CTR column, while the cost-per-engagement is in the Avg. CPC column. To make things more confusing, the actual number of people who clicked through to your website is provided in the “free clicks” report.

Getting Started is Easy

While the metrics may be confusing and hard to find, creating your ads is actually very easy. To begin, create a new Engagement ads display campaign. Engagement ads cannot be added to an existing campaign, so this step is necessary.



You can target your engagement campaign just like any other display campaign, whether it be through remarketing, keywords, interests etc., or a combination.


After you choose your targeting, you’ll be prompted to select which type of engagement ad you’d like to create. First, we’re going to take a look at the Hover-to-Play unit.


Now, this is where things get fun.  As you’ll see below, a “starting image” is required. This is the static image someone will see before they choose to hover over your video.  By default, Google will create your ad in both the 300 x 250 and 336 x 280 ad sizes.   You can also choose an image that will end your video. Next, you must either upload your video or, if it’s already on YouTube, search for the video after you click on “Select a YouTube video.”   Lastly, enter your Display URL and Destination URL and, boom, you’re finished! It’s that easy. You can now save and preview your ad. Here’s an example.

Campaign Management

The rest of the ad types are setup in a similar way, with the exception that they have more robust options.

The Lightbox Ad

The Lightbox ad is a bit more sophisticated and provides really fun customization options where you can get creative. It includes the ability to add your logo, a custom banner image, headline text, and a call to action button.


 Google + Post

This ad type is probably my favorite because it’s awesome for content promotion. Creating content is only the first step – people actually have to see it! That’s why I love this ad type. It gives you the ability to get your content in front of your audience in a very cost effective way. Not just that, but it allows users to interact with that content right within the ad unit. Users can comment or even give you a +1! Showing comments is optional, but it’s certainly something I would do if there is someone available to moderate comments.


As you can see, Engagement ads provide a very powerful and unique way to immerse your customers in your brand experience.  No longer are you constrained by traditional ad formats – engagement ads provide you with a way to truly delight users with an immersive, media-rich experience that will leave a lasting impression.  If your marketing is highly branded, these ad formats are a must-have, and are certain to create increased brand recognition.  In fact, Google states that “Users  are over 10x more likely to engage with these ads than to click on a standard display unit.”

However, if you are  ROI-driven and focused on direct sales or leads, you will likely find limited success with engagement ads.  As with anything, however, testing is the only way to find out. But for marketers heavily involved in branding campaigns, these ad types are sure to drive strong engagement with your brand.

Want to learn more? Google has provided a free pdf for download.


Ryan Ciocca

When Ryan isn't working with clients or optimizing accounts, he can be found mountain biking on the many local Phoenix trails.