What is an Expandable Ad?

Expandable ads are a “high impact” marketing strategy that helps to overcome banner blindness and get the advertiser’s messaging through to visitors of a website. There are a number of different types of expandable ads. Specifically, these ads are often differentiated by the action that prompts the expansion. Some ads will expand automatically when a page is loaded; others will expand only when the user takes a certain action (such as clicking or hovering for a set amount of time).

Below is an example of an expandable ad unit in action:

Example of an Expandable Rectagle Ad

Technical Specs

The IAB specifies a number of standard expanding ad units, though custom sizes are also popular. The before / after dimensions of the most common expandable ad units are:

  • 300×250 to 600×250
  • 180×150 to 600×150
  • 160×600 to 600×600
  • 300×600 to 600×600
  • 728×90 to 728×315

When proposing or discussing an expandable ad unit, it’s also important to note the direction of the expansion. For example, if a site features a 300×250 ad unit in its right rail, the expansion would most likely need to occur to the left (i.e., towards the center of the page). Similarly, a leaderboard near the top of a page would most likely expand down.

The amount of work required to run an expandable ad depends on the infrastructure of the site and the platform used to serve ads. The links below include instructions for implementing expandable ad units in DFP.

Expandable vs. Pushdown

Expandable ad units extend to cover over the content on a site. A similar implementation is the pushdown, which moves all content on a page lower in order to create additional space for an ad unit.

Example of a Pushdown Ad Unit


The user experience is generally similar, but not quite identical. Pushdowns will require more work from a technical perspective on the publisher’s side, whereas expandable ad units are relatively easy to implement.

Expandable ads benefits

There are some benefits using expandable ads, and these include: 

  • Higher CTR: because of the action-driven expansion users tend to click more on ads and increase chances to finally reach the advertiser’s landing page
  • Encourage user engagement: expandable ads are designed to get clicks or responses from the users. Furthermore, upon expanding, these ads can provide more details that increase brand awareness.

  • Opportunity to show more details: expandable ads are designed in two states, and only interested users will click on on the smaller one and get to the larger ad size. This gives advertisers an opportunity to deliver more details to only interested users. 

To Expand or Not to Expand?

Expandable ad units are a type of rich media, meaning that s special creative file is required. As such, most advertisers don't produce expandable ad units when preparing for a campaign; these ads are still somewhat rare.

In general, the use of expandable ads diminishes the user experience. In other words, some visitors to your site may view these ads as disruptive and more annoying than standard display ads. As such, if these ad units are included on a proposal there should be a meaningful premium (i.e., higher CPM) relative to standard ads. As a rule of thumb, we would recommend pricing expandable ad units at a premium of at least 50% - 100% to standard display ads.

It would also be advisable to limit the frequency of expandable ads. Most visitors to your site will likely tolerate an occasional expanding ad that disrupts their experience. But if they encounter this every time, they may get frustrated with the poor user experience and slow speed of your site.

Adding high impact ad units to your offerings may seem like a huge task. But it can actually be very easy.

As mentioned above, many ad platforms can accept expandable ad units as third party tags, meaning the the process for uploading these is substantially similar to standard Flash of GIF ads.

For more disruptive ads such as pushdowns (and many more), Undertone is an ad network that may be worth investigating. This network deals exclusively in non-traditional ad implementations, allowing publishers to leverage their tech platform to get these ads up and running.

The resources section below has a link to Undertone's rich media gallery, which includes examples of a number of high impact ad implementations.


What are expandable ads?

Expandable ads are rich media ads that can expand beyond the original size of the ad unit, following a user-initiated action. This creates a greater area for the ad, allowing for more interaction from interested users.

Do expandable ads annoy users?

When implemented correctly, expandable ads maximize only when users click on them. For these ads to be less disruptive, expandable ads shouldn’t expand more than double their initial height and width

Are expandable ads have any impact?

Expandable ads are a high-impact marketing strategy that helps to overcome banner blindness. Some advertising experts advised limiting the frequency of expandable ads on a website.

Do expandable ads alter the webpage layout?

No. once expanded, the add will appear as a layer on a user’s screen. The rest of the content will remain intact under the ad. Also, users can maximize/remove expanded ads anytime they want.