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Ad creative: 11 considerations for Publishers

For years, publishers have been able to offer readers free premium online content because of ad-funded display, mobile, and video campaigns. But all of the big publishing houses have experienced challenges to this business model (because funding content is becoming increasing difficult - given the challenges presented by cookie tracking changes, new GDPR/CCPA legislation, and trust/transparency issues regarding fake news).

Since 2015, our team have designed and built over 3000 different digital ad formats/campaigns for many of the leading UK/US digital publishers. We've worked to devise tonnes of custom ad formats that have helped win our clients new brand partnerships and drive better audience engagements.

Based on our consistent success (working with various commercial sales, content and ad ops teams) we thought we should share our top 11 most common insights that you might want to consider when reviewing your business plans for 2022.


1. Focus on solutions that can be launched from existing ad slots

Your current IAB ad slots have already been certified and form the largest pool of inventory you can sell (both programmatically and direct). Having the ability to develop a series of creative solutions that can be delivered within these dimensions (e.g Chatbox units, video banners or even gamification units) means that you can get plenty of bang for your buck without having to go through the expense of certifying a new unit every time.

2. Make sure you align your content, sales and ad ops teams

All too often, we find that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. The sales teams have a propensity to say yes to any client request and this can come back to bite the ad ops team later on down the line. By aligning your teams (via processes like regular creative sales training or something as simple as productising your custom ad solutions) you can make sure that the sales team have something shiny to sell that won’t upset your editorial or ad-ops team.

3. Appoint an owner within the business

In response to a rise in requests for ad campaigns featuring innovative creative experiences, many publishers have looked to develop internal creative solutions teams. However, these teams have proven expensive to run and many have not succeeded. In most cases, working with external creative partners is a more effective way to deliver custom ad solutions as and when the briefs arrive. If this is a route you decide to go down, make sure you have a dedicated person internally who can own the relationship with your chosen partner and can liaise with internal stakeholders to make sure the briefing process and comms are handled effectively.

4. Focus on strengthening your existing brand partnerships

Your big brand partners help keep the lights on and the content flowing. By offering them a customised ad design and build service specific to their brand and that is compatible with the audiences across your site, you can help strengthen and grow your relationships as well as win new ones. Moreover, by offering creative as part of your partnerships, you will not only be a more valuable supplier to these brands but will also have the ability to control the creative ad production process (which means there’ll be no more late creative arriving from external agencies or issues with it being in the wrong spec).

5. Develop customisable & scalable ad solutions

All too often, a client will invest time developing and producing one custom ad solution for one campaign. This isn’t an effective approach and the goal should be to templatise as much as possible so that the investment made earlier on can be recouped again and again.

6. Consider licensing a creative management platform (CMP)

A creative management platform is a technology that publishers can license to build, serve, and measure their digital ad creatives. They also allow publishers to build more rich and engaging creative that may feature interactive elements like video, dynamic components, expanding features or chatbot technology. We build most of our client campaigns in platforms like Celtra and we can license those on our client’s behalf (if your demand doesn’t quite meet the minimum spends).

7. Consider licensing a data marketing platform (DMP)

A data management platform (DMP) is a technology that allows publishers to collect, organise and use 1st/2nd/3rd party audience data from any source. With this level of audience insight and targeting, publishers can go on to command higher rates (especially for directly sold ad campaigns). You can also set these systems up to deliver dynamic creative via your CMP so that you can tailor different messages to different audiences in real time.

8. Make sure you consider viewability

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) defines a viewable impression as an ad that meets the following criteria: For ads, 50% of the ad's pixels are visible in the browser window for a continuous 1 second. For larger ads (those greater than 242,000 pixels), 30% of the ad's pixels are visible in the browser window. Make sure that whatever ad you build or develop takes into account viewability otherwise most of your ad impressions won’t be chargeable.

9. Maintain contextual relevance

Context is king. By building ads that have the ability to serve contextually relevant content to viewers you can increase your chances of driving higher yields. Rises in brand safety considerations and ad blocking technologies have led to an increased demand on publishers to make sure they’re using the right creative and contextual tracking technology to deliver ads in the most effective way.

10. Remember your Mobile audiences

This channel is a really important consideration when managing your ad yields. Most users arrive on a site via a mobile device so it’s so important that your ads are designed with these screens in mind. Most campaign creative arrives from a client’s creative agency or marketing team and may not have been primarily designed for mobile. It’s important that you have the ability to adapt this creative so that it works within that environment, otherwise, you’ll be throwing money away and annoying your audiences.

11. Don’t be intrusive

Ads are a means to an end. Although there is an acceptance that premium content needs funding, there is a limit to the size and number of ads a user is prepared to put up with. As a result, you should make sure that you respect the audiences by not designing ads that might drain their CPU while out roaming, or might cover half the pages as they scroll down through the content. Our team as well as organisations like the IAB can provide advice around creative best practices for designing ads in the most compliant way.


If you take the time to properly review and plan your creative ad solutions between now and Christmas, you will stand a much better chance of growing your ad revenues and brand partnerships going into 2022.

If you need any guidance or free support, we’ll be more than happy to jump on a call to share our thoughts - just let us know!

Working with specialists like Deviceful means that you can get faster, smarter, and more scalable ads that bridge the gap brilliantly between creative and media.

So, don’t let your creative let you down - speak to our specialists to stay ahead!


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