Interstitial ads are injecting themselves into the user experience of websites, apps, games, and more. These ads are meant to be placed organically within the user journey while still separating the UX from the advertising component.
These interstitials have been praised by those who appreciate a clear delineation between an app and its business decision to advertise. Others, however, are less enthusiastic about them, which is one of the reasons Google has placed penalties on intrusive interstitial ads.1
In this article, we cover everything you need to know about interstitial ads, the penalties you want to avoid, and tips to improve your placements.
What are Interstitial Ads?
Interstitial ads are full-screen placements between standard interactions in the user experience of a site, app, or game.
For example, navigation between two articles on a news media website or the transition between levels of a hyper-casual game can warrant one of these ads.
Not to be confused with prestitial ads, which are those that are presented before any content or features are made available, interstitial ads are usually between two UI views within the app. YouTube, for example, uses both prestitial and interstitial ads within their videos.
definition of interstitial ads with illustrated example of a full-screen display placement
Games frequently use interstitial ads out of necessity. Most games, especially mobile games, require the entire viewport for the user interface. This prohibits them from using banner ads and pop-up ads.
Interstitial ads are a win-win. Advertisers love the full-screen attention and app developers appreciate the distinction between their product and an ad. In an attempt to cut down on the overuse of interstitial ads, however, Google has outlined a policy for ensuring the user experience is not inundated with interstitials.
Interstitial Ads: The Penalty for Intrusiveness
Google is paving the way for a better ad experience. It may seem counterintuitive for Google — a business built on serving ads — to put restrictions and penalties on ad placements, but that is exactly what they have done.
When considering the user experience for search, 69% of smartphone users reported being more likely to buy from companies whose mobile sites or apps help answer their questions quickly.2
In 2017, Google released mobile interstitial penalties in an attempt to prevent frustration among users. They outlined the main avoidances as:
Displaying a full-screen ad that covers the page’s search intent either immediately after the user navigates to the page or in the middle of browsing
Showing a full-screen ad that requires dismissal before access to the main content is granted
An interstitial living on a site or app above-the-fold with the main content below accessible only when the user scrolls down
Although it may hurt ad revenue in the short term, it is in Google’s best interest to prohibit intrusive advertising to keep the user’s search experience as seamless as possible.
There are, however, some forms of interstitials that are universally acceptable. We cover those next.
Interstitials Unanimously Approved
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Some websites and apps have minimum age requirements and require you to approve cookie tracking per GDPR. These are usually the work of interstitials, and although they may be as frustrating as an unwanted advertisement, they are unanimously agreed upon as necessary.
01. GDPR Interstitial
GDPR is a law enacted in the European Union with the intention of giving users more power (and hopefully protection) over the data they provide websites. Consent is currently required anywhere within the EU or you could face fines in the millions of dollars, depending on the size of your business.
02. Interstitial Age Consent
Websites have an age requirement?
If, for example, you navigate to the website of your favorite alcoholic beverage (you’re 21, right?), you will be asked to input your birthday to prove you are over the legal drinking age. These interstitial consent forms are not only approved but mandated by law.
03. Crossing a Paywall
High-end news and media sites employ interstitial ads as a means of blocking user access to content without first paying. These paywalls are common for sites who have invested substantial resources into content creation.
These are generally accepted practices for interstitials but how can we make all interstitial ads less invasive and more acceptable to users?
Interstitial Ads: Best Practices
How can we, as marketers, provide the best experience for more users? It boils down to a fundamental principle: Don’t be annoying.