Ad serving on mobile versus desktop

ad design All successful publishers and advertisers understand the importance of displaying ads on both mobile devices and desktop computers because you want to reach the audience everywhere, at home, at work and on the move. Because they are different environments with their own characteristics, ad serving for each environment has its own unique approach in order to be effective. Below we will discuss the main differences between desktop and mobile ad serving:


On mobile devices, the screens are smaller and so the amount of content should be considered. You do not want to overload viewers with screens after screens. It is inconvenient and will increase the bounce rate because visitors will go to another site instead. On the other hand, displaying a mobile-optimized page with little content on a big screen desktop computer might feel like you have nothing to say or little knowledge about the subject matter. Similar to content, you can display more ad placements for desktop and fewer ad slots on mobile. The goal is to have just enough quality content to attract an audience and let them have a way to explore as much as they want via comprehensive navigation levels. Also for both ads and content, you should use a mix of text, images, animations, and videos to make them interesting and appealing because reading text paragraphs without visual breaks is boring. People share more when they are on mobile devices and so make it easy for viewers to share links and content, which will increase traffic and ad inventory.

Video ad dimension

If you decide to include video content and video advertising, the device's screen size is an important factor. On mobile devices, the video player often goes full screen because the screen is already small. Having the whole screen means mobile viewers pay more attention when watching videos. In this case, linear video ads (pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll) are more effective than non-linear ads (overlays, companion ads). On the other hand, desktop videos might not need to go full screen and viewers might multitask while watching video or typing comments. That leaves space on the page for other ads like companion ads or space for overlay text ads or image ads.

Video and image orientation

People hold their phones vertically. That makes portrait images and videos more suitable for mobile ads. Desktop and laptop monitors are widescreen monitors. That makes landscape images and videos more suitable for desktop/laptop ads. Therefore, your ad design should depend on your target audience. If you want a single ad creative that displays relatively acceptable on both then try to avoid a wide shot or an odd camera angle. A square ad, or one with similar width and height, might be a suitable solution.

Location of viewers

Desktop computers stay at home or at work. They do not move often and are typically on a static Internet connection. Laptops move a bit more frequent than desktops. It is not the case for mobile devices, which change locations quite frequently. Mobile users bring their devices with them wherever they go. These distinctions mean geo-targeting is more important for mobile ad serving than desktop ad serving. Advertisers will need to decide on the ad targeting level and criteria for their campaigns to reach the desirable audience.

Links and buttons

Mobile ads should be small and precise. There is often no space for multiple call-to-action buttons or highly interactive content because a touchscreen is not as accurate as a mouse click. Therefore, your ad copy as well as your call to action for a mobile-optimized ad should be short and to the point. On the other hand, you can have more than one button or a link to view expandable content for a desktop advertisement. Ads with required disclosures, such as pharmaceutical ads, are more suitable on desktops. As a solution, you can mix text and image to provide a more interesting and legible ad.


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