The Complete Guide to Lightbox Ads: 4 Reasons to Use Them, Bidding, Ad Specs & More

Last updated on by Stephanie Mialki in Google Ads

In 2012, Google introduced a new expandable ad format. Internal testing found these ads received 6-8x more engagement than previous expandable ads — so in September 2014, the interactive ad format was revamped to run on mobile and desktop. Just a few months later, the ad unit became available to all Google advertisers.

Over the last five years, these rich media ads — known as Lightbox ads — have developed into the perfect solution for any advertiser executing a branding campaign or seeking customer engagement.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What is a Lightbox ad?

Lightbox ads are interactive ads on the Google Display Network (GDN) that aim to quickly capture users’ attention with multiple images, videos, or a combination of both.

Users initially see a small ad which can be expanded by clicking or hovering (for 2 seconds or longer) on desktop, or tapping on mobile and tablet. Next, the screen is dimmed and a ‘light box’ appears on the screen, showing your full ad unit that users can interact with:

Depending on the format, users can either scroll through images or watch videos — so compared to single, static image ads, the Lightbox format allows for much more engagement from the offset.

They can also choose whether to click through to the corresponding landing page.

Why should advertisers use Lightbox Ads?

In addition to capturing attention better and faster than single image ads, Google Lightbox ads are beneficial for multiple other reasons:

Seamless audience targeting

GDN Lightbox ads target people using all of the traditional Display Network audience solutions and placement options — Interests & remarketing, keywords, demographics, affinity audiences, etc.

Lightbox ads on Google also use an intelligence optimization engine that tailors audiences based on previously collected data. It learns which targeting methods have proven most effective in the past, so the level of audience engagement continues to improve over time.

Revamped, engaging content

With Lightbox ads, you can use existing creative assets to create engaging ads that people can better interact with. You can upload images, or even pull assets from your YouTube videos, Google Maps listings, and Shopping listings to build full-screen experiences on any publisher’s site, mobile app, screen, or device — on both desktop and mobile:

One of the main benefits of GDN Lightbox ads is that they automatically resize to fit all standard IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) ad spaces:

This automatic resizing allows your ads to appear in more locations, helping you reach more of your potential audience.

Dynamic product advertising

Combinations of high-quality images, video, and audio can enhance audience engagement and make a lasting impact when advertising different products.

Sony Electronics successfully used Lightbox image and video ads to advertise a wide array of products, including their 4K Ultra TV, Xperia smartphone, Playstation, soundbar, and more:

Deborah Gaudette, Senior Vice President at Universal McCann, also had great results with the ad format:

We chose to use Lightbox ads because we needed our content to achieve scale across the web. Our clients spend a lot of time, money and energy creating video assets and making sure they get seen by the most qualified, engaged users is our top priority. Google’s new Lightbox ads help us make sure that happens.

A better user experience

In addition to the benefits for advertisers, Lightbox ads also improve the user experience. By requiring users to click, tap, or hover their mouse over the ad before it expands, it’s designed to minimize accidental expansions.

Self-service vs. Custom Lightbox ads

Self-service Lightbox ads can be built in either Google Ads or Studio.

The Google Ads Ready Ad Gallery offers pre-built display ad templates for advertisers to easily customize based on their marketing objectives and campaign goals:

Studio allows you to build more complex creatives, and can include multiple levels of content in one placement.

In contrast, Custom Lightbox ads are third-party served HTML5 ads fully developed by creative agencies, according to Google Ads specs. This ad format must be hosted in Studio, trafficked from Campaign Manager, and implemented in Google Ads.

The advantage of using Custom Lightbox ads is that there’s more flexibility in the appearance and functionality of the ads compared to Ready Lightbox ads. However, having Custom Lightbox ads created by a third-party is naturally more expensive.

Google Lightbox ads specs

Image assets

Images will appear in both the image gallery and thumbnails. You can build up to 10 image galleries with a maximum of 10 images in each gallery.

Image specifications

Image text

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