What Is Interstitial Advertising and How Does it Work?

Reading time: 5 minutes

Interstitial advertising technically isn’t anything new when you consider how far back online pop-up ads go back. They’re actually hard to miss since they still exist and they’re the type of ads that pop up right in front of your eyes. 

Only now, they’re referred to as interstitial ads[1]

It may sound controversial to implement pop-ups in your advertising campaign[4] as they’re well-known to interrupt the user experience (UX). However, there’s a way to use them so they fit organically within the UX and are less interruptive. In this article, we’re going to discuss all things interstitial advertising, including why you need them and the best practices for implementing them without incurring any penalties,

Read on to learn more.

What Is Interstitial Advertising?

Interstitial advertising is characterized as the utilization of full-screen ads that cover the entire web page or interface of the host app. 

Interstitial ads are designed to show up between the content and are often displayed during transitional points regarding app and web page flows. For instance, they’ll pop up between certain activities, during a pause in video content, or between levels in a game. When an interstitial ad pops up, a user will also have the choice to engage and click the ad to be taken elsewhere or close it and return to consuming their content. 

It should be noted that while interstitial ads are referred to as the “new pop-ups,” the primary thing that differentiates them from an actual pop-up ad is their size. Essentially, they’re separated by the fact that they take up the entire screen. They’re also expandable, starting out as regular banner ads[2] and then becoming enlarged to fit the screen when triggered by a timer or user’s action. 

Interstitial ads can also be displayed in various formats, including text, static images, rich media[3], and even videos. When it comes to the user’s option to close the ad, everything depends on the format. For example, static images can be closed immediately while interstitial video ads[5] can play for up to five seconds before offering the option to close.

Lastly, interstitial ads can also be created as playable ads, which specifically allow users to see a preview of a game, video, or even a few minutes of interaction before downloading an app or downloading a video.

Why Are Interstitial Ads Important?

Interstitial ads are one of the most popular mobile ad formats to date. Therefore, they’re considered an important monetization tool — especially for mobile apps and games. For starters, they’re designed to separate the ad from the app, which publishers like and they get the user’s full attention, which advertisers want.

In addition to having unique key features that benefit both publishers and advertisers, interstitial ads are also a great tool for combatting banner blindness. This is largely because these ads provide a full-screen experience, and are essentially unavoidable. 

The result? — a higher number of impressions that contribute to a higher click-through and conversion rate.

Interstitial Advertising Best Practices

Interstitial ads may increase conversion rates, but they’re still considered intrusive — especially to mobile device users. That’s why Google now penalizes mobile pages that utilize interstitial ads that don’t adhere to their guidelines. 

Here are a few examples of what’s not allowed when implementing interstitial apps on mobile devices:

  • The ads should not appear immediately upon opening an app or website
  • They should also not appear when a user is trying to exit an app or website
  • Repeating or recurring interstitial ads that pop up with every user action are prohibited
  • Displaying back-to-back interstitial ads (as in one popping up once the user closes the first) is also prohibited 
  • Unexpected launches of these ads, such as in the middle of a game, content viewing, or task are prohibited

However, there are a few exclusions to Google’s guidelines, These exclusions would include cookie[6] consent notifications, age verification interstitials, and certain navigational interstitials. 

Aside from following the guidelines, here are a few things to keep in mind in terms of best practices for interstitial advertising to create a seamless experience for your users:

Create a Smooth Flow

Interstitial ads should be implemented linearly, meaning the start and stop points of each ad should be clear and revolve around a natural flow that complements the user’s engagement. For instance, if you display an ad at an unexpected point, such as a break or purposeful pause, there’s less of a chance that the user experience will be disrupted.

The rule of thumb is to allow your interstitials to display before the break page (the page that prompts action from the user, such as “next,” continue,” etc). When interstitials pop up immediately after the break page, it could lead to accidental clicks, which will only hurt your conversion rates.

You’ll also want to consider the aesthetics of your interstitial creative[7]. You want to capture your audience’s attention with a design that encourages engagement. Therefore, you’ll need to consider things like the ad’s orientation, rendering, and so on.

Get the Timing and Frequency right

Roughly 50% of users delete apps because of intrusive ads. Therefore, you want to think long and hard about not bombarding users with interstitial ads. 

So, think about when in an app and even a website it’s appropriate for a full-screen ad to appear, and how often. You may want to also think about inserting a delay (or, loading) screen before the interstitial will appear to prevent users from accidentally clicking on the ad itself and being forced to leave the content or as a fair warning.

Direct Traffic to the Right Places

It’s critical that your interstitial ads are easily understood by users and that what you’re offering can be easily accessed by sending the users directly to the relevant post-click landing page. 

Post-click landing pages are excellent for converting potential customers into sales conversions since they’re a direct link to what the ad is offering. If you use interstitial ads to send users into oblivion, as in pages that don’t make sense, they’re going to get mad and delete your app or leave your website altogether.

Don’t Be Afraid of Interstitial Advertising

Interstitial ads may be seen as intrusive and you may dislike them yourself. However, you cannot deny their potential for increasing impressions, click-through rates, and conversation rates. 

As long as you follow the guidelines and keep the best practices in mind as you implement them, you should see a higher return in no time.

1. interstitial ads. Interstitial ads are full-page ads that tend to serve during transition points within a web page or mobile app. The ads are loaded in an iframe that displays over the content of the current app or page.
2. banner ads. Banner ads are image-based rather than text-based and are a popular form of online advertising. The purpose of banner advertising is to promote a brand and/or to get visitors from the host website to go to the advertiser's website.
3. rich media. Advertising appearing in a ‘richer’ form. These units are outside of the standard ad sizes and usually include special placements and movement. Examples of rich media units include skins, sponsor bars, pushdowns, rising stars.
4. campaign. A set of bidding instructions that at a minimum includes a bid price for inventory. Most campaigns also include criteria such as a specific start and end date, daily or overall budgets, frequency restrictions, and targeting based on user or inventory data.
5. video ads. Video ads are ads that display within video formats. Many different variations and types of video ads exist. They can serve before, during or after the video plays.

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