AdTech Mythbuster Series: Above the Fold Display Ads



If you have been reading our AdTech Mythbuster series, you know that we like to shatter misconceptions about targeted display. Today, we’re not going to go that far because the truth of this myth is that sometimes it is true. Sometimes it is not.

Let’s use a real life example to get you thinking about why an ad below the fold might work better than one above.

It’s Monday morning, and a sports fan wants to check on the baseball scores from the weekend games. He heads over to ESPN and sees this above the fold:

As you can see, there are a couple of display ads here: one for DirectTV and another for the new Captain America movie. Whether the user clicks them or not, they have done their job and “made an impression” on him. The user is now more aware of the advertisers, even if it is only for a brief moment.

Let’s consider the following. Even if this person has some interest in either of these ads, is he likely to stop and pay attention or click either of them? Maybe. There’s certainly value in this placement as you can’t look at the page without seeing them.

But what if I went on to tell you that this person is especially interested in finding out how the Kansas City Royals are doing? Notice their score doesn’t appear here above the fold. Because that’s his real reason for coming to this page, the first thing he’s likely to do is to scroll down to the where the Royal’s score is displayed.

Let’s take a look at what he sees below the fold:


Looks like his team won. Great!

Did you also happen to notice the ad for AT&T U-verse? Maybe not at first, but I’ll bet you saw it after a second. You might argue that it’s buried in the right rail, and that being below the fold, it’s not as visible as the other ads.

True enough – but consider this. Now that our fan has seen the score of the Royal’s game, where does he go from here? Maybe he scrolls back to the top of the page. Or maybe he scans the page from here, looking for somewhere else to go. After he’s found what he came for his eyes are free to roam the page and notice the ad below the fold – maybe even better than the ads above the fold.

When he got to the page, he was focused on finding the content that happened to be below the fold, so he didn’t really notice the ads at the top of the page. Once he had found what he was looking for, he was more likely to notice other things on the page, including the ad that was below the fold.

I’d ask if you agree with me but the truth is, it doesn’t really matter. Even if you think it’s a stretch to argue that the AT&T ad is going to perform better, consider taking your opinion about which ad position is better and setting it aside to examine the data.

Because a lot of the exchanges report where the ad appears, cross referencing that information with how the ads performed will allow you to see that on some pages, above the fold ads work better and that on other pages, below the fold ads work better.

So instead of choosing one or the other, using the data to determine how to bid on a certain site is really the smartest thing to do. Even if it turns out that below the fold ads only works better on 15% of sites, wouldn’t you want your ad to appear below the fold on those sites?

Of course you would. That’s why we don’t believe in ruling out below the fold, and that’s why we suggest looking at the data to determine where your ads are placed.

Bottom line, display ads above the fold work better. Sometimes, display ads below the fold work better.