Google Expands Its Ad Formats With Lightbox

Banner's hover trigger aligns with viewability push

AOL isn’t the only company to use Advertising Week as a stage on which to unfurl new big banners. On Tuesday, Google added the expandable Lightbox format to its display arsenal. The ad unit first appears as a standard display ad, but when a user’s mouse hovers over it for at least two seconds, it expands into a page takeover.

In a company blog post, Google described Lightbox as “the first of a new family of display ads that uses smart hover technology to drive engagement, where marketers only pay when a user engages.” That is, advertisers pay on a cost-per-expansion basis. Advertisers can include any type of rich-media content within the expanded format, such as YouTube videos, games or a product gallery linked to an e-commerce site, a Google spokesperson said. The unit is initially only available to run online, but the spokesperson said Google is considering rolling it out to smartphones and tablets.

In testing the unit internally, Google found that Lightbox generated six to eight times more engagement than standard click-to-expand ads. But couldn’t the unit benefit from incidental expansions that occur when a user mindlessly moves the mouse away from an article they’re reading and stashes the cursor over a banner? Google said the hover trigger prevented accidental expansions from happening almost 100 percent of the time.

Lightbox aligns with the industry’s recent viewability push, which is designed to help advertisers make sure their budgets aren’t going to waste. That push has been especially aimed at attracting big-budget brand advertisers migrate budgets online. To that end, Google released some performance numbers for its TrueView ads, which gives users control over which video ads they are shown. The idea behind TrueView is that if users are able to choose the ads they see, those ads are more likely to resonate with them and less likely to waste advertisers’ money. In examining 92 TrueView campaigns, Google saw that, within two weeks of a campaign running, every dollar invested in YouTube on average returned $1.70 in sales, which the company said is 2.4 times more efficient than TV ads. Google also found that TrueView ads led to a 36 percent increase in site visits and a 36 percent in searches for a brand.