Display advertising in 2021: Size Мatters (Part 1)

May 5, 2021

Display advertising has been around for quite some time – 27 years to be exact! That’s right, the story of display ads begins in 1994 when the first banner advertisement was published on the commercial online magazine HotWired (1994–1999). It was a part of the future-predicting “You Will” campaign and it looked like this:

The American telecommunication company AT&T was promoted by a series of ads, which carried the message “You will” and painted a world in which people’s day-to-day life was strongly influenced by the internet and the benefits it offers. Interestingly enough, most of the creatives described our actual reality today. Of course, there were a few inaccuracies, such as the suggestion that payphones will continue to be widely popular and that people could use them for video calls.

While back then banner ads may have been a bit straightforward (and probably should’ve included a photosensitive epilepsy disclaimer warning), now they are not only prettier but also much more popular than before. According to webfx.com the Display Network features more than 2 million websites, targets over 100 countries, and reaches 90% of online consumers.

Basics of Display Ads

As the name suggests display ads are visual advertisements, which usually contain pictures, videos, GIFs, logos, and some text in the form of a slogan, a key campaign message, and/or a CTA. If you want to run display ads to promote your business, then you need to sign up on a platform, which serves as a distributor of your creatives. You probably know many online platforms offer the possibility of display advertising including Google (the most popular one yet), Facebook, Yahoo, mMedia, and others. If you’re wondering which one to choose, check out our article, which compares the two most popular of them – Facebook and Google.

Once you create your ads (according to your chosen platform’s requirements), they will be placed on relevant third-party websites. According to Search Engine Watch, there are three main categories of display ads in terms of their placement.

  • Site Placement Advertising: an approach in which the advertiser chooses the websites on which their ad is going to be displayed
  • Contextual Advertising: when the platform you work with (Google, for example) places your ads on websites with similar content thus increasing their relevancy. For example, if you advertise kitchen utilities, your ads will be displayed on a website about cooking.
  • Remarketing Advertising: in this case, your ads will be displayed to users who have already visited your website. Once they visit other web pages, your ads will be shown to them. This is one reason why marketers love to use cookies because it allows us to segment and target users based on their actions on the web.

So now that we made that clear, it’s time to look at some of the most popular sizes for display ads today.

Popular Display Ads Sizes in 2021

No matter which platform you decide to advertise on, you should first and foremost map out your ad ideas and create great pieces of content to show to the world. Many elements need your attention when designing a good display ad banner. You have to think about the size, the background color (or image), the main product visualization, the headline, the subtext, the CTA, and last but not least, the landing page (where your ads are going to lead to). In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the most popular size options for your banner ads. We will examine the essential practices connected to them, which will improve your campaigns in 2021.

There are quite a few options for the size of your banner ads. Additionally, the size also determines the possible positions of your ad on a given page. This goes both for desktop and mobile display ads. There is a simple reason for that. Website owners have the right to choose where on their pages they want to display ads. For example, if you have a blog and you want to monetize it, you can sign up for Google AdSense and select the exact spots on your pages where you think it’ll be most appropriate for ads to show. Let’s say you want ads to be displayed only on the right side of your content, or maybe you think people will be more likely to click on them if they were near the footer section of your blog. It’s important to note that even if you create an amazing banner ad, it’s going to be displayed only on the websites with relevant content and on those who have the specific size option available.

Desktop Ad Size Cheat Sheet

According to a survey executed by Match2One, which examines data from 4.8 billion ad impressions on millions of sites, marketers are mostly using 4 main banner sizes for all of their campaigns. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ad sizes for desktop devices:

Medium Rectangle

The size for medium rectangle banners is 300x250px. Match2One’s survey shows that 40% of the impressions used this size. It is widely used and can be placed both in the top or bottom sections of the screen and inside the article itself. The visibility of this banner is great because it’s big enough to be able to showcase your creatives, but also discrete enough to not be annoying for the users. The medium rectangle is so popular that Google even created a specific set of requirements for this format. Additionally, it works great on mobile devices as well, so you really cannot go wrong with this one.


The second most common banner used in the display network is the Leaderboard format. According to spiralytics.com, its ad impression share on the GDN (Google Display Network) is 32%. Although it can be displayed at the bottom of a page, the Leaderboard is usually placed in the header section of a webpage and looks like a horizontal stripe, which is 728 px in length and 90 px in height. Keep in mind that banners, which are located in the top part of a website are generally more successful than those shown near the footer section, simply because not everyone will scroll down. As well as with the medium rectangle, you can use both visuals and text with this format. The leaderboard is a part of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB), standardized guidelines on banner sizes, which work on all advertising networks, including but not limited to GDN.

The Large Leaderboard (970×90) and the Billboard (970×250) are very similar to the Leaderboard ad format because they are also horizontal banner ads. However, you can see that they are bigger, which accounts for better visibility and more options for ad creative (larger images, CTA’s, and copies). That being said, they are not as popular amongst advertisers. As Match2One’s survey shows, the Large Leaderboard and the Billboard account for respectively 5% and 1% of the impressions.

Wide Skyscraper

The third most popular size for a display ad in 2021 is the Wide Skyscraper standing at 160x600px. It is usually positioned somewhere in the sidebar of a page and looks like a vertical strip. About 12% of all impressions looked at during Match2One’s survey belonged to this format. Therefore, if you are still unsure of what sizes your display ads should be, consider using this format.

The Half Page is a similar vertical ad size, however, it is much wider than the Wide Skyscraper. It takes up 300x600px of the page and is also used in the sidebar section of websites. The Half page is spacious enough, so you can get creative with your ad design.

Bottom Line

If there is one thing you should remember from this article it is that there are some display ad formats that work better than others. The reason for that lies in the available supply of display ad space for certain sizes – some websites simply do not want to enable certain ad placements and sizes. Therefore, if ever in doubt, you should always create your ads in the most popular ad sizes. For 2021, they are:

  • Medium Rectangle – 300×250px
  • Mobile Leaderboard – 320×50px (note: we’ll explain more about mobile display ad formats in our next article on the topic, pinky promise)
  • Leaderboard Banner – 728×90px
  • Wide Skyscraper – 160×600px

The display advertising world is huge. We understand that our list may seem overwhelming for some of you, but we have only talked about less than a third of all available ad formats out there. Additionally, this article only covers the desktop options, so stay tuned for Display Advertising in 2021: Size Matters (Part 2) where we’ll talk about mobile ad sizes and best practices.

In the meantime don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact us if you need help with your advertising campaigns. Interval can take care of every aspect of your marketing strategy. Let us be a part of your digital journey, get in touch now.

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