What Is In-Image Advertising?

By Diane Anselmo | @diane_anselmo | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

As a PPC marketer, I have to admit that most of the initiatives I take on behalf of my clients are usually related to achieving some sort of a direct response. That response may be a lead, a sale, or some other designated action. However, I’m having more conversations that revolve around exposing their brand to a larger audience that they might not be capturing through their traditional PPC efforts.


I recently discovered in-image advertising and became immediately intrigued with the concept. What exactly was it and how was it different than my other display efforts? What did the ads look like? What was the targeting like? With those questions in mind, I reached out to an in-image platform and started the conversation. As it turns out, I learned quite a bit of information that fueled me to launch a test campaign.


What Is It?


Simply put, in-image advertising is exactly what it sounds like. Through a platform, your ads get placed over images across the internet. Here’s an example.


Image of in-image ad
Image used from GumGum


These images are on websites that are a part of the platform’s network, so you’ll want to make sure that you choose a partner who has a robust list of quality partners. Some in-image advertisers include:



Your ad can be placed right over the image or your partner might offer something called in-screen advertising, where your ad appears at the bottom of the screen that the user is viewing. Either way, the concept is that these ads will capture the attention of the user more than banner ads do, as people have generally fallen victim to “banner blindness” and no longer even see the ads that are on the pages they are viewing.


How Does It Work?


Once I decided that I was going to test this platform, I needed to make sure I understood enough about it to launch a campaign that was well-targeted to my audience. That part of the process involved a lot of thought and back-and-forth with the platform. The main targeting component is a keyword list that you provide. Those keywords work in conjunction with the platform and determine which articles your ads will run on. This is an important step in the process because you need to think of everything that might have a multiple meaning and take steps to ensure that your ads don’t wind up running on articles about topics that are irrelevant to the advertiser.


This part of the process took a lot of time for me, but it was time well spent, as it ensured my campaign was going to hit my target audience. You can also add your competitor’s names to the keyword list. By doing that, your ad can appear over an image in an article about your competitor.


But Wait, There’s More


Having the ability to target by keyword is great, but what about making sure that your ads don’t appear on articles that you don’t want them to show? Luckily, the platform I worked with had a targeting option similar to negative keywords, where I was able to designate my anti-targets. This filtering is extremely helpful, especially when there are other things that are totally irrelevant to the advertiser that would be considered a wasted impression. The bottom line is that taking the time to target and anti-target effectively will make for a much better performing campaign.


More Targeting


In-image advertising offers more targeting above and beyond the keyword targeting that can be layered on as well. While each platform is different, the one I was working with offered:


  • Demographic targeting
  • Geographic targeting
  • Event targeting (which is really cool)


Running this in conjunction with the keyword targeting can help to further refine targeting even more. I go back to what I said before – the more specific the targeting, the better.


Ad Units


As I mentioned before, these ad units run on top of images within articles that have content relevant to the advertiser. I was impressed with the options for ad copy, as there was the option to have animated ads, run a Twitter feed on an ad, and create an overlay ad, among other options. While I tested a basic ad format, I imagine that some of the more advanced ones would perform even better.


Managing Expectations


I want to be clear that in-image advertising is very different from traditional PPC and shouldn’t be compared to it, especially when gauging metrics. Through our targeting efforts, we are trying to reach the right people with the right message but, unlike PPC, it’s hard for us to know whether we are reaching them at the right time. With that said, it’s totally possible that those who view our in-image ads eventually become customers, but it might take some time. Remember that this audience is coming in higher in funnel then our PPC audience and it is going to take some time to nurture them down the funnel.


With that said, if your clients are only interested in getting leads or sales immediately, then in-image advertising might not be the best option. However, if the advertiser is interested in growing their audience of targeted people, then in-image might be just the thing. Besides the targeting abilities, I also love that it’s relatively new and hasn’t been saturated yet. You may very well find that none of your competitors have caught on to in-image advertising just yet.


Final Thoughts


In-image advertising is still relatively new and growing. While advertisers won’t see the same direct results that they see from their PPC efforts, they will start filling their funnel with targeted users who may be interested in their product or service further down the line. It’s not going to be for everyone, but it is certainly something that PPC account managers should be paying attention to as they continue to build and grow their accounts.