The Different Types of Advertising Design

Whether you are a designer, marketer, or business owner, these are the types of advertising design you need to know.

Marketing design
June 28, 2021

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Every year, the marketing mix becomes richer with new types of advertising designs. The old formats get reinvented, and the new ones are invented. Here is a list of the most important types that every marketer and graphic designer needs to know.

The total advertising expenditure in 2020, just in the US alone, was around 236 billion dollars. So, it's no wonder that from the time you wake up and by the time you go to bed, on average, you see between 5,000 and 10,000 ads. During the 1970s, that number was merely 500 to 1600 ads daily.

This dramatic increase in ad exposure is mainly to the exponential growth of digital marketing. Since Google launched AdWords in 2000, the company grew its advertising revenue year after year. In 2020 Google generated over 146 billion US dollars through their advertising platform.

Over the centuries, advertisements became part of our daily lives. They influence our buying decisions, our political opinions, and our culture. From the first posters, the golden age of TV, to social media ads, the look and feel of ads changed dramatically.

As technology progressed, so did ad formats and their design. But, unlike technology, the advertising formats from the middle of the 18th century are still equally valuable as the latest Instagram ad type.


Marketing, advertising, and advertising design

While a lot of people use terms marketing and advertising interchangeably, they are anything but the same. Marketing is a comprehensive process that involves research and analysis in order to define the product, its target audience, key message, the price, etc. The final goal of marketing is to exchange value offerings for sales.

On the other hand, advertising is a subset of marketing explicitly focused on promoting the product. Its primary purpose is to drive the attention of the potential customers to the value offerings.

Advertising design is somewhere on the cross-section of advertising and graphic design. Even though it is a subset of graphic design, it is usually associated with marketing. The primary purpose of advertising design is to take a brief from the marketing team and turn it into visually pleasing ads.


source: Ads of the World


McDonald's Germany Instagram Ads 2020

Brita display ads

Display ads generate a very high number of impressions and are relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, they are among the ad formats with the lowest click-through rate. According to research from SmartInsights, display ads on average have about 0.05% CTR. So they might not be great for sales, but they are ideal for brand awareness campaigns

Today display ads are present everywhere. You can spot them on the websites you visit, apps you are using, and for some Android users, they are an integral part of the user interface.

The first web banner source: HotWired/AT&T

Direct mail examples from Papa John and KitKat

Coca-Cola ads from the 1930s

source: Norwegian Airlines

Different types of advertising design in a nutshell

Daily you see thousands of ads. They come in various formats and from multiple channels. You see ads when you open an app on your phone, when you turn on your computer, flip through a magazine, or walk down the street. You also hear them when you turn on the radio or listen to your favorite podcast. And in the era of smart devices and the digital-first world, marketers can combine different types of ad designs into one, maximizing the effects of their ad campaigns.

With the constant updates of the advertising platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Bing, it becomes harder to list all the available ad design options today. However, these are just some of the advertising design types used most frequently among marketers.

Broadcast and print media ad designs

The first association almost everyone has on their mind when someone mentions advertisements are broadcast and print media ads. They are among the first ad formats that we've seen in our lives and are still among the most crucial ad formats today. And when done right, these ads can become iconic and embed in our popular culture and universal knowledge forever.

Video ads (a.k.a. Commercials)

They were primarily made for TV, but things changed dramatically with the rise of Web 2.0. With YouTube gaining its momentum in 2006 and video getting incorporated seamlessly on websites, blogs, and social media, video advertisements started to rule the web the same way they ruled TV for decades.

Even though the technology and tools for making great videos became widely available and inexpensive, making professional-looking video ads still requires more effort compared to creating an image or a graphic design. However, video ads still trump other formats, which makes them the unofficial king of advertising design.

  • 81% of people prefer watching videos on social media compared to other available formats (Render Forest)
  • Almost 50 % of online shoppers search for videos of products they intend to buy (Think with Google)
  • 6 out of 10 people prefer watching videos online instead of TV (Think with Google)
  • video ads on Facebook increase conversion rates up to 30% compared to other formats (Data Box)

Magazine and newspaper ads

The study from 2015 conducted by Temple University's Center for Neural Decision Making showed that print ads provided a more resounding emotional response than digital ads. Participants also had far better recollections of the information they saw in the print ads. And while digital ads are perceived as annoying and overly pushy, the advertisements in print publications are perceived as their integral part.

Advertisements in print media are still far more expensive than those for social media and display ads. This is no surprise since they require more design and copywriting skills compared to social media.

However, print ads last as long as the magazine is available for the reader. In contrast, display ads disappear the moment they run out of budget. And when done right, the print advertisements become part of global pop culture forever. Just think of Santa and Coca-Cola.


Even though the profits from the ad sales in the print media are shrinking every year due to the digital platforms, the numbers are still quite impressive. Therefore, it is expected that the revenue from print ad sales will hit the 30bn USD mark in 2021.

  • 75 % of people can recollect a brand's name after seeing it in the print ad compared to 44% for the digital ads
  • 33% of millennials are subscribed to a magazine or newspaper
  • in 2020, the number of digital magazine subscribers increased by 8%

Direct mail

The line between excellent marketing and spam is very narrow when it comes to direct mail. Just like all the other print marketing channels, direct mail requires great copywriting and graphic design skills.

When you send your prospects' material directly in the mailbox, you have one chance to impress them and tickle their interest or end up in a recycling bin. Unlike digital ads that allow you to edit on the go and A/B test in real-time, print doesn't offer that flexibility. Once you send your print materials to your potential customers, there is no going back.


Temple University's study from 2015 showed that the physical interaction with the print ads increased the subconscious value people give to the products. And with an average of 25 minutes per week that people spend reading their direct mail, this channel is still relevant today. Moreover, the numbers show that this is among the few old marketing channels that successfully thrive in today's digital world.

  • 48% of people save promotional materials from the direct mail for future reference
  • 79% of people in the US prefer reading direct mail compared to email, according to UPS
  • the average response rate from direct mail is 5.1% compared to 0.6% from Email marketing

Digital advertising design types

All ads specifically made to be displayed on the web or through digital ad platforms fall in this broad category. From basic image and text banners in the 1990s to interactive TikTok ads, digital advertising design changed dramatically over the past few decades. It tested the creative limits of graphic designers with constant iterations and technological advancements.

Digital advertising forced graphic designers to become multimedia artists in the 21st century. Today they need to know the basics of 3D animation, motion graphics, coding, and UX/UI to create advertisements that can grab attention in the overcrowded ocean of digital noise.

Display advertisements

The first-ever website banner appeared in 1994. It was an ad for AT&T with a simple image, and people clicked on it like crazy. Over time display ad designs became more complex. The plain banners with pictures and texts were enriched with videos, animations, and audio. But instead of making them more effective and pleasing for the customers, display ads quickly became overly annoying.

first banner.gif

Display ads are among the most challenging formats for designers and marketers. It takes effort and skill to make a design that will come through the digital clutter and stand out. But, first, you need to understand your target audience and which websites, social networks, and apps they use. The more you know your audience, the more relevant your ads will be to them.


Social media ads

Unlike their predecessors, display ads, social media advertisements are far more effective for few reasons. First, they allow you to precisely target your audience based on their demographics, interests, and intent, among other things. Second, social media platforms keep inventing new and creative formats that effectively trigger a desired response from the audience. Also, UX/UI teams behind the most popular social networks continuously make the entire ad experience as seamless as possible.

With every update, social networks expand the creative possibilities for their ad designs. Today, you can use images, interactive elements, videos, audio, and even augmented reality to create ads that will capture your audience's attention.


It is undeniable that social media ads can reach a much larger audience than any other marketing channel. They also provide excellent opportunities for businesses that are trying to operate on a global market. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the global economy, statistics for social media ads were quite encouraging.

  • compared to 2019, digital advertising revenue increased by 12.1%
  • social media advertising revenues hit 41.5bn USD
  • video ads reached an 18.7% share of all digital ads

Email marketing

Email marketing is one of the oldest and most effective digital marketing channels. Marketers love it because of its return-on-investment, which is around 40$ US for every dollar invested. This puts email marketing high on every marketing mix list.

Good marketing design does not need to be overwhelming. If the content is good and you write about something that your audience wants to hear, the design can be as minimal as possible. However, well planned and designed email will set you apart from the crowd and will increase time spent on your content and link clicks.

There are few simple rules that will help you declutter and organize your email and make it more appealing.

  1. The shorter, the better. Keep things short and to the point. No one wants to read long promotional emails.
  2. Use text hierarchy and spread the content in smaller chunks with sub-headers, well-formatted fonts, and quotes.
  3. Make the design mobile-friendly since the majority of people today check their emails on their phones.
  4. Use your brand colors and logo so people can identify your content quickly and easily.
  5. Make the entire email easily scannable since most people only scan through the content and read headlines.
  6. Optimize all photos. Make them as light as possible to avoid slow loading time.
  7. Have a clear call to action in your email.

Most of the emails that come in your inbox might not be as flashy and eye-catching as direct mail or social media ads. However, they offer a unique and direct channel for communication between companies and their prospects and generate high-quality leads.

Outdoor ads

Billboards, digital screens, banner ads, posters, and street furniture used to be among the most popular advertising channels for big brands, political candidates, and local businesses. Today, capturing attention in public spaces can be a rather challenging task. With most people stuck to their screens, it is getting increasingly hard to draw someone's attention.

In 2020 outdoor advertising was the only marketing channel that suffered a severe blow due to pandemic. As a result, most OOH agencies used this time to digitalize and update their billboards and digital screens, allowing them to start serving more dynamic and real-time content than ever before. And with the measuring sensors and cameras, OOD finally gets more precise analytics and can offer its clients programmatic buying.

According to the report from OAAA:

  • 68% of interviewed adults in the USA think they spend too much time in front of a screen
  • 69% have increased appreciation for the outdoors since the beginning of the pandemic
  • 45% said that they notice billboards and other outdoor ads more than before the pandemic

Billboards and other outdoor ads are also observed from various distances and speeds, posing additional challenges for designers. They need to communicate the key message and brand name in a matter of seconds. It takes an outstanding designer to make a truly remarkable outdoor ad design.

Great advertisements are centered around great design

The number of ads we see every day rises exponentially. Whether we talk about digital, print, or outdoor advertisements, it is getting harder to reach the audience. Oversaturation with various types of ads pushes designers, marketers, and marketing channels to constantly reinvent old formats and experiment with new ones.

Today it is not enough for the ads to look good. They need to look exceptional. They need to be memorable, have a clear message, and stay true to the brand they promote. Great copy will tell a great story, but excellent advertising design will bring the story to life.

Diplomat by education, marketer by profession. Currently living between Berlin and Skopje, still deciding where to settle permanently. Ghostwriter that is slowly crossing back into the land of the living writers. Always reading two books at the same time and follows at least 15 TV series. Used to dream about changing the world, now just patiently waits for the next Marvel movie.

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