Understanding the Different Types of Digital Ads

Andrea Stark Marketing Strategist
animated graphic for digital ads

Like the universe itself, the digital world never sits still. Software and platform developers continue to provide marketers with new ideas and innovative technology that changes the face of digital advertising. As a business owner or marketing manager, it’s important to be aware of different types of digital ads and how they leverage your brand. 

Today, digital marketing agencies have an array of digital tools at their disposal: display advertising, PPC ads, mobile-specific ads, retargeting/remarketing, video advertising, social media and native advertising. Below is an overview of the different types of digital ads and how they reinforce your marketing strategy. 

Display Advertising

Display advertising is an umbrella term for graphics-heavy ads that display on internet websites, apps or social media. They often contain attractive wording, images or graphics and a strong call to action. The display typically contains a built-in link that the viewer will click to go to your website, social media page or other platforms. 

Types of Display Ads

  • Animated ads
  • Interactive ads
  • Video ads
  • Expandable ads
  • Lightbox ads
  • Interstitial ads
  • 360-degree video ads

When to Use Display Advertising

Digital ads are flexible enough to use in almost any marketing strategy. However, the primary reason digital ads are effective is because they are highly visual. So, if your product or service is more visual, and you want to capture the attention of people who may pass over written content, digital ads can help your campaign. You may also want to use digital ads for longer sales cycles or in niche markets. 

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

PPC (pay-per-click) is a digital ad tool that allows advertisers to run ads on search engines such as Google Ads and pay every time someone clicks on their ad. Although PPC is based on organic ads, search engines such as Google or Bing offer tools and incentives to boost an ad to the front of the line. So, PPC is essentially a digital marketing channel that drives more traffic and higher conversions from search engines. 

Types of PPC Ads

  • Search ads
  • Smart ads
  • Remarketing ads
  • Paid social ads
  • Gmail sponsored ads
  • Guaranteed/screened ads
  • Amazon advertising
  • Local service ads

When to Use PPC Ads

First rule: if you do not know why you are using paid ads, then do not use them. Why? Because they are expensive and can drain your marketing budget quickly. Second rule: even if you know why you are using PPC ads, make sure you partner with a digital marketing agency that knows how to use them. In a nutshell, you use PPC ads to outperform the competition. This can be especially helpful if you are a startup or small business. PPC ads also target qualified leads, which can drastically improve your ROI and revenue.

Mobile-Specific Ads

While digital ads can appear on any device, mobile ads give you the ability to target your ads at devices such as cell phones or tablets. Developers can create ads that only appear on mobile devices or are optimized specifically for mobile devices. These types of ads can appear in search results or on mobile apps that sponsor ads. You can make ads in text, image, video, call-only or app/digital content format.

Types of Mobile-Specific Ads

  • Call-only ads
  • App promotion ads
  • Banner ads
  • Video ads
  • Gamified 
  • Full-screen or interstitial
  • Native app

When to Use Mobile-Specific Ads

Regardless of your product, your audience or your marketing strategy, you should consider mobile-specific ads in nearly every major campaign as most consumers making purchasing decisions do so on their remote devices (the percentage keeps climbing annually). If you are not targeting some or all your ads to mobile devices, you are missing out on a significant portion of the market. For this reason, you should be using mobile ads all the time.


Retargeting campaigns remind your website visitors of your products and services after they leave your website without buying. After visiting specific pages, it allows you to retarget them and show your visitors relevant visual or text ads when they visit other websites. You can use retargeting as a core tool to connect with your customers and increase your sales and customer loyalty.

Types of Retargeting Ads

  • Cross-channel ads
  • Email ads
  • Dynamic ads
  • Buyer persona ads
  • Account-based ads
  • Social remarketing ads
  • Google ads

When to Use Retargeting/Remarketing

Retargeting or remarketing ads are designed for post visits, not pre-visits. So, you are using them for people who have already visited your site or loyal customers who keep coming back. While retargeting strategy is obviously different from reaching a new audience, so is the mindset. You are using an entirely different psychology, which consists of repeatedly reinforcing the same impression.

Video Ads

Video advertising is the process of displaying ads either inside online video content or as standalone ads. A company can use video content to promote a brand, present a how-to guide, share customer testimonials or stream live events. Video ads are effective in advertising because they instantly engage buyers and hold their attention for longer periods.

Types of Video Ads 

  • Skippable in-stream ads
  • Non-skippable in-stream ads
  • Video discovery ads
  • Bumper ads
  • Outstream ads
  • Masthead ads
  • Pre- , mid-, post-roll ads
  • In-banner, text or page ads

When to Use Video Ads

Since they incorporate audio and visual elements that appeal to multiple senses, video ads are ideal for sharing in-depth product information and educating your audience. They’re especially effective when used for product demonstrations or how-to guides. If you have a media- or tech-driven audience, videos can position you as a modern, innovative company. 

Social Media Ads

Social media advertising is a combination of free and paid ads on social media platforms, which act as marketing channels designed to drive traffic back to your website. Social media ads can include posts on your page or paid ads that are similar to Google PPC ads. Most social media ads contain links that redirect the buyer back to the website. The ads can be placed on your social media page or other areas on the platform. For instance, Facebook’s ads typically show up either in the newsfeed or the sidebar. 

Types of Social Media Ads

  • Instant experience ads
  • Image ads
  • Carousel ads
  • Product ads
  • Collection ads
  • Interactive ads
  • Lead form ads
  • Video ads

When to Use Social Media Ads

When it comes to social media ads, the primary thing to remember is that they are a means to an end, not the end itself. Therefore, you should use them as a marketing channel that drives traffic back to your website. Second, you should approach paid ads the same way you do Google PPC. Establish a purpose, set a budget and work with a paid ads expert or digital marketing agency. That way, you get the highest ROI on your marketing dollars.

Native Advertising

Native advertising uses paid ads that resemble the look, feel and function of the media format or platform in which they appear. In other words, they are designed to ‘fit in’ with their surroundings so that they appear to be more organic. As a result, native ads don’t look like ads. They look like part of the editorial flow of the page. The key to native advertising is that it is non-disruptive—it exposes the reader to advertising content without shoving it in their face.

Types of Native Ads

  • Feed ads
  • Paid search ads
  • Promoted listings
  • Recommendation widgets 
  • Displays with native design elements
  • Custom ads

When to Use Native Advertising

Native advertising is effective because it is better received by your target audiences. This method combats ad fatigue and engages the audience in a way that feels less intrusive. Since native ads do not feel like ads, people are more inclined to view them and consume their content. Native ads are ideal for websites, social media newsfeeds or similar platforms. Keep in mind, wherever you place them, they must feel organic and fit in with the rest of the content or platform design.

Schedule Your Next Ad Strategy Session with Lucid Advertising

With all the different types of digital ads available, Lucid can help you choose the right ones for your upcoming marketing strategy. Call us today at 850.760.0478 to schedule your free consultation.