What Is a Lightbox Ad? Here Is Everything You Need to Know

As a digital marketer, chances are you must have heard of lightbox ads. But very few people know what this term means, and even fewer people know how to create them. Lightbox ad is versatile and is useful in several industries, but it depends on the objective of the campaign. So, what is a lightbox ad? 

Lightbox ad is an interactive ads option on the Google Display Network which aims to capture the user’s attention with multiple images, videos, or both.  Lightbox ads display to users as a small ad which expands and fills up the majority of the screen when clicked on. 

If the objective of your campaigns is to create better engagement with customers, then Lightbox ads are a perfect solution. In this article, I’d share some reasons you should use lightbox ads. I’d also teach you how to use a lightbox ad, and how bidding on it works, and many more.  

Lightbox Ad Sizes 

To ensure consistency in the quality, all image and video assets for lightbox ads have to be up to a specific quality. Below is the expected image and video lightbox ad sizes: 

Image Assets 

Images uploaded will appear both in the thumbnail and image gallery. You can have a maximum of 10 image galleries, with 10 images in each gallery. 

Image Specification 

  • File format: JPG or PNG 
  • File size: 200KB maximum 
  • Image dimension: 1024 x 1050 maximum 
  • Resolution: 200+ PPI high-resolution images 
  • Aspect ratio: No specification 

Image Text 

  • Descriptive text, caption, and CTAs: May be added to every image 
  • Maximum length for DBSC languages such as Korean, Japanese, Chinese: 
    • Text: 40 characters 
    • Title: 100 characters 
    • CTA: 20 characters 
  • Maximum length for SBCS languages such as Spanish, French, English: 
    • Text: 75 characters 
    • Title: 25 characters 
    • CTA: 15 characters 

Video Assets 

Videos can be added to lightbox ads directly from a YouTube channel, or by directly uploading it from your computer. Each video has its asset card: 

YouTube Videos 

  • YouTube Annotation and info card: This will be visible and is actionable on supported browsers 
  • Recommended maximum length: 4 minutes 

Non-YouTube Videos 

  • Video codec: MPEG-2, H.264, or MPEG-4 preferred 
  • Audio codec: AAC or MP3 

Video Cover Image (optional) 

  • An alternative high-resolution image to show before the video plays. If you don’t upload an image, the lightbox ad will use the video’s default thumbnail which may be low resolution. 
  • GIF, JPG, or PNG 
  • 200KB maximum 
  • 200+ PPI 
  • No mandatory aspect ratio  
  • Include a play button on the image so users know they are playable. 

In addition to the above lightbox ad specification, there is also the basic asset specification to follow for Lightbox ad created with Google ads templates such as product asset and map asset in some cases.  

Reasons to Use Lightbox Ads 

Apart from the fact that lightbox ads capture attention faster and better than single image ads, Google Display Network lightbox ads have other benefits. 

  1. Seamless Audience Targeting 

Lightbox ad targets the audience using all the traditional Display Network audience solutions and placement options. This includes custom affinity audience, similar audience, demographics, remarketing, and affinity audience, amongst others. Also, lightbox ads use intelligence optimization, which tailors the audience based on previously collected data. Lightbox ad targets audiences based on what has proven to be most effective in the past, so over time, its level of audience engagement gets better.  

  1. Revamped and Engaging Content 

Lightbox ad also gives you the option to create engaging ads with the existing creative assets so that people can interact better with. You can even upload images or pull assets from mobile apps, devices, shopping listings, google maps listings, and YouTube videos amongst others, on both mobile and desktop. Interestingly, GDN lightbox ads automatically resize to fit all standard IAB ad spaces. This allows your ads to appear in more locations letting you reach more potential audiences. 

  1. Dynamic Product Advertising 

Because a lightbox ad combines high-quality audio, video, and images, it enhances audience engagement. As such, your ads will make a long-lasting impact when advertisers use it to advertise different products. Several organizations like Sony Electronics and Universal McCann have had a great result with this ad format. 

  1. Better User Experience 

In addition to the benefits lightbox ads bring to advertisers, and despite it is an ad, it also improves the user experience. Since users are required to hover their mouse over, click or tap the ad before it expands, its design minimizes accidental expansions. 

How to Create Lightbox Ads 

To create lightbox ads, the first thing you need to do is set up your campaign and bidding (I’d explain them later in this article). When your campaign is set up, create the lightbox ad following these steps:  

  1. Go to Google Ads and sign in to your account. 
  2. Open the page menu and click Ads & extensions. 
  3. Click on the blue plus button and then select the lightbox ad. 
  4. The next page lets you create your ad card. To do that click on images, videos, or feed cards to upload each then click save. 
  5. By expanding the card you just created in the panel on your left, add captions, a link for your images, a call to action, or a cover image for your videos. You can see the change in the preview on the right. 
  6. Additional cards can be added by clicking the blue plus button and choosing to add a video card, image, map card, or feed card. 
  7. You can also add a logo and up to 10 calls to action or messages to encourage users to encourage immediate response such as “visit website” or “buy now” or to give them more details about your business. 
  8. Save the ad to send them for review. Once it is approved, your new lightbox ad will start running. 

Self-Service or Custom Lightbox Ads 

Interestingly, lightbox ads give you two options, either your ad is a self-service lightbox ad or a custom lightbox ad. A self-service lightbox ad is a type of ad that is built in either Google Ads or Studio. 

Ready Ad Gallery from Google Ads offers users pre-built templates which makes it easy for users to customize their ads on the basis of their marketing campaign goals and objectives. Studio on the other hand allows you to build a more creative and complex ad that includes multiple levels of content in one placement. 

But on the other hand, custom lightbox ads are third-party served HTML5 ads. Custom lightbox ads are fully developed by creative agencies. But according to Google Ads spec, ads in this format must be implemented in Google ads, trafficked from Campaign Manages, and hosted in Studio. 

The main advantage of using custom lightbox ads is that they are more flexible in functionality and appearance of the ads compared to Ready lightbox ads. Nevertheless, having custom lightbox ads created by a third party is often more expensive. 

How does Bidding on Lightbox Ads Work 

Lightbox ads use two main bidding options vCPM and CPE-based models. This is done so that marketers with a specific target can gain from each model’s advantages. Here is how these bidding options work on Lightbox Ads: 

  • vCPM based model 

Some people prefer vCPM bidding because it gives them the ability to set the maximum amount they are willing to pay. So, they have control over the amount they pay for each time the ad is seen or a viewable impression, and not for each click. Nevertheless, vCPM bidding is often unavailable for search network campaigns. 

Note, the higher the amount you set as a max vCPM, the greater the chances are that your ad will appear. And as always, the Google Ads system will charge you only what is needed to place your ad above the next highest ad, and chargers are made if the ad becomes viewable. 

  • CPE based model 

On the other hand, with CPE (cost per engagement) bidding, the advertiser will only pay when users are actively engaging with the ads. For example, when an advertiser pays for lightbox ads on a CPE basis, it means that the advertiser can earn from lightbox ads but only when users engage with the ads. 


Truth be told, lightbox ads provide advertisers with countless ways to be creative with their campaigns. And with a wide array of targeting and placement options, lightbox ads make it easier to grow your brand awareness, boost post-click conversions, and increase customer engagement. 


  • Tristan

    Tristan has a strong interest in the intersection of artificial intelligence and creative expression. He has a background in computer science, and he enjoys exploring the ways in which AI can enhance and augment human creativity. In his writing, he often delves into the ways in which AI is being used to generate original works of fiction and poetry, as well as to analyze and understand patterns in existing texts.