By Charlotte Silveston

Light up your life: have you thought about including Lightbox ads in your GDN activity? If not, here’s a quick run-through of what they are, how to set them up, and how they worked for one of our clients. 

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What are Lightbox ads?

A quick Google search for ‘lightbox’ throws up LED shop window displays, multi-sensory educational toys, and retro cinema signs. What do they have in common? Their purpose is to engage people. In the same vein, Lightbox ads are interactive ads that aim to capture the attention of users. Running across the Google Display Network (GDN), they can include multiple images, videos, or a combination of the two. Initially, users see a small invitation ad which can be expanded through hovering for 2 seconds or longer (on desktop) or tapping (mobile and tablet). The user can then interact with the ad; depending on the format, they can scroll through images and associated information or watch videos. This means that compared to static image ads, Lightbox ads allow users to be highly engaged from the offset. Once expanded, the user can choose whether to click through to the website.

Lightbox ads example

Image Source: Marketing Land

How do you pay?

Advertisers are charged when a user engages with a Lightbox ad, in other words, when they expand it by hovering or by tapping, depending on the device. They are not charged if a user subsequently decides to click through to the website. 

There are two options for bidding; CPE and vCPM. CPE (cost per engagement) bidding is similar to CPC bidding whereby the advertiser specifies a price they’re prepared to pay each time a user engages with an ad. vCPM (viewable cost per thousand impressions) involves the advertiser paying a set fee for every thousand impressions. Under this bid strategy, an impression is counted when more than 50% of pixels are shown for more than one second.

What's the difference between Ready and Custom Lightbox ads?

Ready Lightbox ads can be made in the AdWords interface using the Ad Gallery. Here, there are templates which allow Lightbox ads to be built in a matter of minutes. Ready Lightbox ads need only be created in one size because Google will reproduce the ad in all available sizes. Making Lightbox ads in AdWords is quick and easy. Here’s a snapshot of the four templates that are currently available in the Ad Gallery:

Lightbox Ad templates

In contrast, Custom Lightbox ads need to be produced by creative agencies in all the appropriate sizes. They must be hosted in DoubleClick Studio, trafficked from DoubleClick Campaign Manager and implemented in AdWords. This means that Custom Lightbox ads are only really an option for some businesses who have a budget allocated to creative and use DoubleClick. The advantage of using Custom Lightbox ads is that there is much more flexibility in the appearance and functionality of the ads in comparison to Ready Lightbox ads. The sky’s the limit! See some examples here.

How do I set up Lightbox ads?

  1. Create a new campaign; you cannot have Lightbox ads in the same campaign as any other ad types, like static image ads. 
  2. Select the ‘Marketing Objectives’ option and then either ‘See your ad’ or ‘Engage with your content’. Before choosing between these, think about your advertising goals and which kind of bidding is more appropriate – ‘See your ad’ is more compatible with vCPM (normally used in conjunction with brand awareness goals) and ‘Engage with your content’ only allows advertisers to select CPE bidding (usually more compatible with driving traffic to the website).
  3. After choosing the rest of the campaign settings, advertisers will be given the option to create their own Ready Lightbox ads or upload their own ads, for example Custom Lightbox ads.
  4. As always, once the campaign is set up there will be a period of time during which the ads will be reviewed. Be sure to check back in a day or two to see if the ads are running.

What else do I need to know?

Lightbox ads must adhere to the same policies as other GDN ads, for example, they need to be approved as ‘Family Safe’. For more information on Google’s ad policies, see here.

Advertisers may see fewer impressions for Lightbox ads than traditional static image ads because not as many publisher sites are able to support this ad format. 

The targeting methods available in other GDN campaigns can be applied to Lightbox ads. Advertisers can therefore use methods like keyword targeting and remarketing with Lightbox ads.

What kind of results can I expect?

Here at Periscopix, we carried out an A/B test, running two GDN campaigns alongside each other. The two campaigns had the same targeting and ran at the same time but one housed Lightbox ads and the other static image ads. Below are the results from the 30 days following launch:

Lightbox ads vs Static image ads

First, a quick definition of the ‘Engagements’ and ‘Engagement Rate’ metrics. An engagement happens when a user expands a Lightbox ad, irrespective of whether they then go onto the website. Engagement rate is how often users engage with the ad after it is shown to them. Another point to note is that for Lightbox ads, CTR is when a user clicks on an ad that they have already expanded and goes through to the website. 

What conclusions can I draw from this?

  • As expected, Lightbox ads had far fewer impressions than static image ads because of the inability of some publisher sites to host them.
  • The cost was very similar for both types of ads, but the average CPE was far higher for Lightbox ads than the CPC for static image ads.
  • If a click on a static image ad is treated as an ‘engagement’, then Lightbox ads resulted in more engagements than static image ads.
  • Looking at clicks only, Lightbox ads had almost 1000 fewer clicks than static image ads and therefore drove less traffic to the website.
  • Neither ad type led to any conversions, direct or otherwise, but the main goal of most GDN activity is to drive either brand awareness or traffic to the website.
  • The most striking result is the difference in bounce rate between the two ad types; traditional static image ads had a bounce rate of 100% meaning that every single user who clicked through to the website clicked straight back off again. For Lightbox ads, this figure was 84%, suggesting that users who have engaged with them were more qualified leads. In other words, users interacting with Lightbox ads seem to get a much better picture of the company and its services before clicking through to the website.

In summary, in this test static image ads were superior in terms of brand awareness; they accrued a larger number of impressions and drove more traffic to the website. Lightbox ads seemed to be better at getting people to click through to the website and stay there. Although this was a short test from one vertical, it’s definitely worth trialling Lightbox ads if budget allows, particularly if your advertising goal involves brand engagement. 

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