Ad Technologies, Insights

What You Should Know When Developing Creatives for Digital Advertising – the Principle Do’s and Don’ts

Producing creatives can become a lengthy process if agencies do not comply with the digital standards according to which modern ad servers and marketplaces operate. While there is almost no restriction on creativity in the design process, there are functional and technical requirements which cannot be dodged. In the following checklist, we focus on the most important points that should be taken into account when crafting your digital advertising creatives.

Your new advertising campaign has been set up and the target group is in sight – the only thing missing are the creatives which the agency has promised within the next hour. Now the latest banners are finally arriving and look pretty cool at first glance. Great graphics, thrilling animations and a very appealing ad copy…but wait a moment – the file size for a single banner is about 30 MB and the clicktag is not integrated correctly. It will not run on any ad servers or marketplaces because it does not meet the applicable standards.

Situations like these are more than annoying. On the one hand, a lot of time and money flow into creating them, and on the other hand, examples such as this result in email ping pong that eats up even more resources. In the end, all those involved are left frustrated and look on helplessly as the launch of the carefully-planned digital campaign is delayed. After all, compliance with the functional and technical requirements is not at all difficult. HTML5 has gained acceptance as the technical standard for digital creatives. The very detailed Directive of the Internet Advertising Bureau Austria (IAB) has been around for some time now. Let’s summarise the most important points in our checklist for standard display formats.

1. Limit the Creative File Size to 150 KB

To ensure a quick set-up, all elements of the creatives should be as small as possible in the creation process. The smaller the file size, the quicker the loading time – and the higher the chance of a high click rate. It is not uncommon that we are attracted to creatives whose size is clearly in the two-digit MB range when a high-resolution video is integrated. The IAB recommends a maximum file size of 80 KB, though we think that 150 KB is still acceptable. However, larger creatives need to be hosted and reloaded, which requires additional effort.

2. Retrieve External Content Through SSL Encryption

In principle, an HTML5 creative shouldn’t consist of any more than 10 files. If creatives have been built to load content from external servers, then they must be 100% secure. External libraries should therefore only access HTTPS URLs and use SSL encryption. Ad servers do accept external requests in this form, which means you can remain on the safe side.

3. Integrate Clicktags Properly

We daily find that clicktags have not been integrated into the creative properly. However, this is absolutely necessary to ensure that the link via the ad server works and that interactions are counted correctly. Integrating the clicktags correctly is actually quite easy. Make sure your creative agency follows the published standards (e.g. IAB standards) so that unnecessary feedback loops can be avoided.

4. A Close Button Is Advisable for Special Formats

There are hardly any publishers that accept special ad formats such as sidebars or overlays without a close button. Ultimately, if users stay on the publisher’s page and find the advertising annoying, they should have the option to close it. For HTML5 creatives, a close button should be ideally placed as a layer above the creative. The good news is that most standard formats like content ads, skyscrapers and billboards can live without it.

5. Do Not Forget Fallback Solutions

Every now and then technology plays tricks on us. Depending on which browser version a user has, some of the creative’s elements may not load correctly. If this is the case, you should have a fallback solution in the form of a static JPG or a dynamic GIF. Provide these formats together with the HTML5 creative so that you are prepared for all circumstances. Irrespective of this, your creative agency should test all creatives on all common browser versions in order to avoid malfunctions in the first place.

The bottom line: Resist the temptation to have annoying feedback loops when preparing creatives. If you comply with the standard requirements for HTML5 banners from the outset, you will save a lot of time and money. But also other ad servers with formats beyond HTML5 such as Adform and Google have evolved their standards – we recommend to always consult with your partner before kicking off the creative work. Typical mistakes such as carelessly integrated clicktags or integrating oversized videos can be avoided by clearly communicating the requirements to your creative agency from the start.

As an independent consulting and full-service provider, adverserve would love to advise as you start out with programmatic advertising. We are neutral, independent and are one of the pioneers of the European programmatic community. Please contact us:



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