Rich media is a term used in digital advertising for ads that include advanced media features and technologies. While standard static ads have text or images, rich media ads use videos, animation, audio, and interactive content.

Rich media ads have become popular due to their higher performance over traditional static ads. Well-configured rich media ad campaigns result in higher user engagement and have been used to boost views, click-through rates (CTRs), and conversions.

Definition of Rich Media Ads

Rich media ad is an online type of digital ad that includes content designed to be highly engaging or generate user interactions, such as video, audio, or interactive elements.

Unlike standard display ads, rich media ads offer a more immersive and dynamic experience for users, increasing their interaction and response rates.

To better understand the importance of rich media ads in the digital advertising landscape, it is critical to compare them with traditional forms of digital advertising and contrast their capabilities.

How Rich Media Ads Differ From Standard Display Banner Ads

How rich media ads differ from standard, static banner creatives in multiple ways. Below is a breakdown of the most significant differences.

Static (Standard) Banner Ads
Contains plain text (HTML), a static image (JPG, PNG), or a basic animated GIF
Cannot support video content
Cannot support audio content
Cannot support interactive elements
Creative types limited by file formats
Limited analytics
Maximum size is typically limited to 150-200 KB or smaller
Supports a single click-through link
Rich Media Ads
Can support any text or image format
Supports all animated image formats (animated GIF, animated PNG, WEBP)
Supports video content
Supports audio content
Numerous creative types possible
Expandable to larger sizes
Supports detailed analytics and tracking metrics
Can support multiple click-through links

How Rich Media Ads Differ From Text Ads

Text ad refers to in-text advertising, which displays promoted content within text-based mediums. Examples include native ads on text-heavy sites, blogs, or search engine result ads.

While text ads can benefit advertisers looking to reach customers from search engine results, they are limited in format and capabilities. While they are very lightweight and easy for viewers to consume, most networks serving text ads impose strict limitations on the number of characters an advertiser can include in the creative. This character limitation means a text ad can convey only a small amount of information.

A rich media ad can fit in a small space, support expansion functions to make it larger and display its content more efficiently, and supports numerous file formats to convey messages to the viewer. Rich media ads are more space-efficient and can provide more information than any text-only creative.

How Rich Media Ads Work

Rich media ads use various technologies, making them more complex and versatile than traditional display ads. Below is a breakdown of some of the most critical technologies allowing rich media ads to function.

  • Ad Servers: Before placing and serving them on a digital property, ads must be stored on dedicated ad servers. The primary role of an ad server is to store an advertiser’s ad creatives in various sizes and formats, to be later delivered in real-time to publisher-operated platforms such as websites, blogs, apps, and other digital properties. Ad servers can also collect user data, providing analytics and performance tracking of each ad unit to advertisers. Ad servers are essential for monetization for publishers, as they can automatically fill their digital properties’ ad spaces with the best and most relevant ads.
  • HTML5: HTML5 is the latest generation of the Hypertext Markup Language, an essential technology and programming language used to display webpages. HTML5 is a worldwide standard supported by all browsers and operating systems. Because of this, ads developed in the HTML5 format can be displayed on virtually any device. This version of the HTML language is designed to support rich media ads, making it one of the most common languages used in modern digital advertising.
  • CSS3: CSS3 is the latest generation of the Cascading Style Sheets language, a set of modular standards dictating modern web pages’ styling, formatting, and appearance. Rich media ads can use CSS3 features to enhance presentation and optimization, ensuring they load faster on a wider array of devices.
  • JavaScript: The JavaScript (JS) language is the world’s most widely used programming language, estimated to form at least one part of 98% of websites. Web developers have used JavaScript since 1995 to introduce or enhance a webpage’s interactivity. Numerous rich media creatives use JavaScript features to serve ads more efficiently and create more complex and engaging creatives.
  • Tracking pixels: A tracking pixel, also called a pixel tag, is a 1 x 1 transparent image carrying specific pieces of code that loads alongside webpages, emails, or rich media ads. The code contained within these pixels is designed to gather user data, such as the operating system (OS), browser, client type, screen resolution, time spent, and IP address. Ads can use tracking pixels to collect analytics, user behavior data, and insights on the ad campaign’s performance.

Types of Rich Media Ads

Advertisers can create and implement various rich media ads in their campaigns. Each rich media ad format type serves different purposes and can help advertisers showcase their brands and products in multiple contexts, from desktop websites to mobile applications.

Video Ads

The video ad is the most common type of rich media ad. Video ads leverage moving images and audio to showcase a brand and its products, using similar principles to television ads but adapted to Internet-based digital properties, such as blogs, websites, and mobile applications.

Video ads attract the viewer’s attention using various techniques, with several categories of video ads available to advertisers:

  • Pre-roll in-stream video ads: This type of video ad plays at the beginning of streamed video content, such as a YouTube video. Pre-roll video ads are typically short (6 to 15 seconds) and skippable after a set period, usually 5 seconds.
  • Mid-roll in-stream video ads: Mid-roll video ads play near the middle of streamed video content, often between two distinct segments. Mid-roll ads can be longer than their pre-roll counterparts, with a typical maximum content length of 30 seconds.
  • Post-roll in-stream video ads: This category of video ads plays at or near the end of streamed video content. While most post-roll ads are 10 to 15 seconds long, some can be as long as 4 minutes. End-roll ads play after the viewer has seen the content they came for, making the longer formats less likely to bother them.
  • Outstream video ads: This type of video ad is displayed in a self-container player, making it possible to display on websites and digital properties that do not traditionally serve video content, such as news websites.
  • Overlay video ads: An overlay video ad plays over the primary video content, obscuring 10% to 20% to avoid distracting viewers from the content they came for. It uses the same overlaying system as subtitles and captions.

Rich Media Interstitial Ads

Although interstitial ads form their category of ads that can display text, images, and standalone video content, the most well-known form of interstitial ads features rich media. 

All interstitial ads are designed to display full-screen ads. While desktop interstitials exist, mobile interstitials are more widely used. They are designed to appear after the user has completed a specific action, creating a transition from one action to the next.

For example, an interstitial ad displayed inside a mobile game may appear after the user has completed a level or finished a game session, briefly interrupting them before they can resume.

Many rich media interstitial ads are fully interactive, leveraging various technologies to provide users with an immersive and engaging experience. Examples of interactive features include sample levels of a mobile game, snippets of an application or utility, show quiz questions or polls, and interactive video ads.

Expandable Ads

Expanding ads, also called expandable ads, are a specific form of rich media ads designed to have two sizes: a more compact initial size and an expanded size.

Expanding ads can be viewed as a modernized take on the classic, static banner ad. While they can adopt the same placements as banners, users can expand these ads by clicking or hovering the mouse pointer over the expanding ad’s placement, causing it to expand over a wider area and display the creative in a larger format.

Given how they function, these ads are considered action-driven; most expanding ads will only switch to their larger size once the viewer interacts with them. Consequently, they attract high-intent viewers and typically generate high user engagement rates.

While most expanding ads expand in a single, fixed direction (e.g., a rectangular ad expanding downward or to one of its sides), some networks offer multi-directional expandable (MDE) ads that can intelligently expand in any direction depending on their placement on the page.

Rich Media Banner Ads

Although banner ads are the oldest form of digital advertising, rich media versions of these traditional ad formats are available to advertisers who wish to continue using banners while benefiting from the advantages of rich media technologies.

For instance, a rich media banner ad can use traditional banner ad formats to play highly engaging or interactive creatives, introducing audio, video, and interactive ads to ad placements generally reserved for static images.

Pushdown Ads

A pushdown ad is a rich media ad designed to push a webpage’s content downward. Once a pushdown ad loads, it visibly appears to push or drag the content the viewer came for, making a dramatic and memorable entrance. Although it is a rarer type of rich media ad, it uses size formats similar to specific banner ads, such as billboards and leaderboards.

Although standard pushdown ads are designed to push the content down automatically once loaded, advertisers can configure them in many ways to change or enhance user experience.

For instance, some pushdown ads can be built to load only a small portion or a clickable button that expands and pushes the content only when the user interacts with it. This format combines the unique presentation of pushdown ads with the particularities of a user-clickable expanding ad.

As with other rich media ad formats, pushdown ads support multimedia content and ad creatives, including animated images, audio, video, and interactive features.

Lightbox Ads

A lightbox ad is an ad unit exclusive to the Google Display Network, first introduced for desktop-based digital properties in 2012 and later expanded to mobile.

The lightbox ad is a small ad on a webpage that a user can click, tap, or hover. When interacted with, a dimming layer partially obscures the content, and the titular lightbox loads, displaying multiple images, videos, or interactive elements.

Although it appears similar to an expanding ad at first glance, the lightbox ad is designed to draw engagement and retain user attention for longer. The dimming and displaying of multiple ad items help users transition away from the content and focus on the ad creatives, resulting in higher engagement rates than standard expandable ads.

Slider Ads

Slider ads, called carousels or rotating offers, resemble banners that automatically slide between multiple pieces of ad content. Although primarily designed for image-based content, slider ads combining image and video-based creatives are possible, granting advertisers high flexibility.

Most slider ads are designed to automatically switch to the next slide after a set period (e.g., 5 seconds). Many also feature individually clickable buttons letting players select a specific slide or switch to the next or previous slides.

Key Performance Indicators To Measure Performance

When measuring your rich media ad campaign’s performance, attention to the correct data points is critical.

  • Impressions: The number of times an ad was displayed on a webpage, regardless of whether the user has interacted with it.
  • Views / Plays: The number of times a user actively viewed an ad. This KPI may be referred to as the number of plays on video-based ad creatives instead.
  • Engagement rate (Interaction time): A percentage representing the number of interactions divided by the number of impressions, views, or plays, depending on which type of engagement is being tracked.
  • Completion rate: The number of users that completed an ad, such as watching a video ad to the end or using an interactive ad for a given period. A sister KPI is interaction time, which tracks the time spent viewing or interacting with an ad.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): A percentage representing the number of clicks an ad has received divided by the number of impressions.
  • Conversion rate: A percentage representing the number of users completing a desired action (e.g., purchasing a product) divided by the number of ad clicks or interactions.
  • Revenue: An estimation of the average amount earned per successfully converted user.

Best Practices for Using Rich Media Ads

The best way to maximize your rich media ad campaign’s performance is to follow the industry’s tips and best practices:

  • Mind the user experience: While rich media ads offer numerous possibilities to capture a viewer’s attention and engagement, excessive use of rich media features can cause your ad creatives to become intrusive or annoying, harming your KPIs in the long term.
  • Make it mobile-friendly: Over 60% of all world wide web traffic comes from mobile devices, making it critical to ensure your ad creatives are optimized for mobile users.
  • Clear calls to action (CTAs): The best way to ensure your ads drive users to convert is to ensure the ad informs the user on what to do, from purchasing a product to answering surveys.
  • Use quality creatives: All image, audio, and video assets in your rich media ads should be of the highest quality and resolution allowed by the ad network to ensure your ads have a clean and professional look.
  • Test, optimize, repeat: Rich media ad campaigns must be regularly tested, modified, optimized, and improved to obtain the best results and performance.


Traditional digital advertising uses principles introduced in the early 1990s. They primarily use elements such as text or static images with hyperlinks to present viewers with a message or a product. While technically simple, lightweight, and easy to implement, traditional digital advertising is limited, as it cannot display more than plain text or images.

Rich media can use multiple layers of content and technical elements to create more engaging and visually appealing ads. Widely used rich media ad format examples include audio, video, and interactive content.

Rich media ads are typically powered by HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript technologies to provide a multi-layered advertising experience. Some rich media ads can even be games, such as demonstrations of mobile games displayed in ads. Additionally, most rich media ads feature more advanced analytics and tracking tools, allowing advertisers to gain better insights into their ad campaign’s performance.

Create and Manage Your Rich Media Ad Campaign with CodeFuel

Rich media ads are essential to the modern digital advertising landscape. They offer advertisers more possibilities to attract a user’s attention than traditional text or display ads, including new formats not normally possible with text or image-only creatives, such as lightbox or slider ads.

Using rich media ads in your campaigns is crucial to maximize user engagement, generate stronger and more positive responses to your brand, and ensure users recall your ads for longer periods. These factors contribute to increased click-through rates, boosted conversion rates, and higher revenue when compared to campaigns that rely on traditional display ads.

Are you seeking help optimizing your app, website, or digital property’s revenue? CodeFuel is a digital marketing platform that can help you make the most out of your property by leveraging all available monetization options. Contact our team to get started.