A Glossary of Digital Display Terms—AKA: Your new best friend

Advertising jargon can get a bit much at times, even for those of us well-steeped in the industry. There’s a constant stream of new terms to learn, shorthand and slang in different parts of the world, and of course, there are the terms that you have no idea what they are so you nod along, making a mental note to Google it later. Well, wonder no more because we are here to clear up the confusion!
We wouldn’t be the banner and display advertising experts we claim to be if we didn’t help clarify some advertising terms whenever we can. With that in mind, we’ve created a glossary of digital display phrases with all the need-to-know terms (in our opinion!) and their definitions. It’s by no means exhaustive but it’ll give you a good leg up in those meetings that seem to be nothing but a stream of jargon.

Plus, when you know what we know, we can all do our jobs better. Win-win!

Above-the-fold: the area of the screen before you need to scroll, derived from newspaper advertising, usually one of the best spots to have a digital placement.

Ad Server: a dedicated web server for the delivery of digital ad placements and is not the same as a media agency. This informs the template that is used for your HTML5 ads and is very important. Some ad servers we work with frequently are Sizmek, DoubleClick Studio, and Google Campaign Manager which all require different base templates and coding.

Animated ad: an ad that has any motion included in it. Movement could range from scales and zooms to full character animations. However, different specs allow for code-based vs. video animation.

Backup: a static image of the end frame of the creative included with every banner ad build. These are served in the event there is an issue with the creative or an unsupported browser tries to load the creative.

Billboard: a banner ad that is 970×250 pixels. It’s usually a very large ad, found in prominent positions on various platforms and can be used as an immersive experience or pushdown/expandable unit.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): a language used to style the presentation of a digital asset.

Call-to-Action (CTA): usually a button on an online ad that encourages the user to take the next step in their sales journey. Found on most banner ads though, a CTA is not always necessary as banner ads are very effective when used for brand awareness vehicles.

Click-through-Rate (CTR): the measurement of how many times users click on an online ad and go to the advertiser’s landing page or website. A useful metric but not the best metric to measure banner ads with!

Double mid-page unit (DMPU): a banner ad that is 300×600 pixels. Also known as a half-page unit, tall rectangle, monster MPU or halfpage unit.

Demand side platform (DSP): allows advertisers to buy impressions for their creatives across a range of sites catering to specially targeted user profiles. Parties who hold available ad space make their inventory available through an ad exchange and DSPs sort through the most appropriate options based on the specific company’s ads it is working with. Examples of a DSP are DoubleClick and Facebook Ads Manager.

Digital-out-of-Home (DOOH): any advertising that reaches consumers outside of their homes or personal devices. Often found in public transit areas and on screens in high traffic areas of large cities.

Dynamic Campaign: often confused as an animation term, a dynamic campaign is a campaign that allows for virtually all elements of a creative to be updated or changed while the ads are live. Dynamic campaigns are customized in advance, then set up in DoubleClick Studio and connected to Google sheets. The sheets house all the information to be pulled into the creatives that are easily updatable, even after the ads have gone live. Interchangeable elements include CTAs, copy, images, and price points to name a few.

File size: this is the maximum size that your finished creative units can be individually when delivered to the media agency or served in your placement. The IAB has standard specs different creatives should abide by (ie. Rich and standard) however, often media agencies will offer limits that are substantially lower or vary for different creative sizes so it’s essential to know the available file size of the creative placements before a project begins.

HTML5: the current markup language of the internet; the technology that took over from Flash.

International Advertising Bureau (IAB): responsible for developing industry standards and supporting the online advertising industry. (They also have their own massive gloassary with every word remotely related to digital advertising. You can overwhelm/inform yourself here!)

Interstitial: ads displayed before or after an expected content page, often found in mobile advertising. These banner ads are usually 320×480 pixels.

JavaScript (JS): a programming language for building applications and ads on the internet. It allows for the incorporation of advanced features and animation details. 

Leaderboard: a banner ad that is 728×90 pixels, usually appears at the top of a webpage.

Media Company: a company that is paid to publish content on various platforms (ie. Radio, TV, digital) for brands.

Mobile banner ad: mobile ad units are usually 300×50 pixels or 320×50 pixels, however, MPU units can also be served on mobile devices.

Mid-page Unit (MPU): this size of banner ad is the most popular and best-performing unit. It is 300×250 pixels, also known as a MRec, Med Rec, or medium rectangle.

Native Advertising: paid media placement that is indistinguishable from the natural form of the platform it is placed on.

Production Agency: hey, that’s us! We’re the equivalent of a print shop for the digital world. We’ll happily take all digital display creative briefs from your team and turn them into dazzling display ads! The ads we create can be given to your media agency for them to serve.

Programmatic: media buying that automates the ad buying process to serve targeted and personalized ad experiences to users across the web.

Real time bidding: the process by which placements are bought by a DSP. Prices are determined by a real-time auction, called real time bidding.

Retina: this is a marketing term coined by Apple referring to devices that have a resolution and pixel density so high—roughly 300 or more pixels per inch—that a person is unable to discern individual pixels when viewing the screen. Devices with retina screens would include laptops and smartphones. With this in mind, we ask that PSDs are supplied to us in retina size so the creative can maintain visual integrity and keep everything looking super sharp and crisp. This means doubling the design canvas when designing a creative unit. For example, an MPU at 300×250 would mean a retina design would be 600×500, and 600×1200 for a 300×600 unit, and so on.

Rich Media: banner ads that allow for user interaction, sound, and/or video. These generally take a bit of skill to make and serve but have plenty of research to prove their efficacy.

Roll-over State: usually referring to how the CTA looks when a user’s cursor hovers over it. Often it fills with another colour, inverts, or animates in some way.

Skyscraper: this is usually referring to a banner ad that is 160×600, also known as a Wide Skyscraper. However, there is also a size of a skyscraper that is 120×600 and while it is still in the occasional media buy, this size has been retired by the IAB as of 2011.

Specs: this refers to the file size and ad server of your creative unit. This is very important to establish before any building commences.

Standard unit: this is a unit that incorporates HTML5, JS, and CSS. These units cannot support video elements, though code-based animation is completely feasible and even encouraged (by us!). Usually, these work to 150KB limit though some now go up to 200KB. Standard units are not synonymous with static creatives.

Static: these are creatives with no movement whatsoever. These are still images served in your media placements.