We’re often asked which ad formats are the most effective for engaging kids’ imaginations. Our Insights team recently spoke to over a thousand kids aged 6-14 across the US and UK, who gave some pretty blunt feedback about the various ad formats they encounter daily.

Interestingly US kids are generally more ready to engage with ads than UK kids, particularly with mobile formats. Nearly 50% of US kids would click to find out more on a mobile game interstitial or interactive pre-roll, compared to 37% of UK kids.

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Interactive pre-roll and game interstitials on mobile are the least likely to be skipped in both groups. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that mobile interstitials are the kids’ favourite. To illustrate some of the deeper trends that emerged, we asked the group to rank the most common digital ad formats from least to most favourite. Here are the results:

 6) Expandable floor ads give kids the power of choice

Expandable floor ads fell to 6th place in UK and US kids’ estimations. However, this format inspired discussion and mixed opinions from our panel.Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 15.06.06

Why is it the least favourite of the 6?

Expandable floor ads are met with mixed emotions from our audience. Whilst many kids are reluctant to engage with floor ads, they will interact with them if the content is both simple and enticing. Kids appreciate the fact that they have the choice whether to interact with the ad or not (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but does mean this format is more likely to be actively ignored).

“I can see the ad and make a choice if I like that or not.” – Boy, 6 with parents’ help US

“I would probably click to find out more, but it’s not so obtrusive and in my face while I’m trying to do whatever I’m doing on the Internet” – Girl, 14 US

“It appears on the screen so people can see it and choose to be interested or ignore. It isn’t intrusive” – Boy, 14, UK

5) Skins are so integrated, they are in danger of not being seen at all

Skins come second last on our list; partly because many kids don’t pay any attention to them at all. In fact, this is the most ignored format in the UK (38% kids wouldn’t notice a skin as advertising).

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Why are they often ignored?

The good thing about skins is that they are seen as unintrusive, and raise awareness of a brand at a subconscious level by remaining in the background while a kid browses their favourite content. The downside? Many kids, especially at a young age, don’t see this format as an ad at all, but simply as a new look for a site or app. Skins are by no means hated, but they work best in conjunction with other ad formats to create the most impact.

“It really does not distract or stop what you are doing.” – Girl, 10 US

“It’s the only one that doesn’t get in my way of doing what I’m trying to do. All the others piss me off. If you want people to buy your stuff you shouldn’t piss them off.” – Girl, 13 US

“[Is there any advertising here?]..No!” – Age 6, UK

4) Mobile game interstitials are effective but controversial

Mobile game interstitials came 4th in the eyes of our audience, ranking more highly with UK than US kids. Interestingly, this format created the most discussion and debate amongst our panel.

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What makes this format controversial?

Mobile game interstitials divided our audience; whilst some saw the format as fun and interactive, others had no time for any format that interrupted gameplay in this way. It’s also important to include a clear call-to-action in a mobile game interstitial, as younger kids are unlikely to realise this is an ad at all and get completely distracted.

“It is more fun that just an ad or commercial”– Girl, 6 US

“It tells you something in a fun way. It would be cool to play a game” – Girl, 11 US

“Why would you want to use your data up on this when you’re trying to use it to play a game you want to play already?” – Boy, 7 UK

3) Interactive pre-roll is effective in engaging kids and teens

Interactive pre-roll comes third on our list of the most popular ad formats, ranking more highly amongst US than UK kids – but the popularity depends on very strong, attention-grabbing content.

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Why is this format effective?

One of the strengths of interactive pre-roll is that it’s timed to play before the main content the kid is waiting for; it’s often seen as less obstructive. Content is extremely important here, as kids are much more likely to enjoy interactive pre-roll if the video is related to the main content they are waiting to view or play. Attention MUST be grabbed in the first few seconds though, or kids will hit ‘x’.

“It can give you a lot of information and its like a movie and can show you the video game really good” – Boy, 11 US

“It’s a video so I’d be more likely to watch it” – Girl, 12 US

“It doesn’t get in the way of the games or things I’m looking at because it’s at the start” – Girl, 10 UK

2) Interactive mobile interstitials engage kids without annoying them

Our kids’ panel named interactive mobile interstitials as their second favourite ad format, many having never seen this type of ad before.

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Why is it so popular?

The interactive element of this format creates a sense of novelty and fun; by holding back content for kids to reveal, it appeals to their curiosity and quickly gets them invested in the content.

“It’s somewhat interactive and maybe people would end up wanting more information” – Girl, 10 US

“I think it is cool how the ad progresses” – Boy, 12, US

“This format is the most clever and fun.” – Boy, 8, UK

1) Integrations are the most popular format for brand engagement

In first place is the brand integration. 1 in 4 kids in the UK (and even more in the US) picked this as their favourite when given the choice of 6 different ad formats.

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Why are they the most popular?

Kids see integrations as the least disruptive and most engaging format, allowing them to continue enjoying a game with added value; campaign integrations often work alongside the infrastructure of a site or app to reward kids with in-game currency or exclusive content, sometimes even taking over whole areas of a virtual world or game.

“It’s kind of subtle, not annoying but catches your eye” – Boy, 12 US

“It does not interfere with game too much” – Boy, 6 UK

“It does not interrupt the flow of the game.” – Girl, 12, UK

Does incentivized advertising work?  

We asked our panel of kids what they thought about incentivized pre-roll. 83% of kids told us they have watched a video to earn in-game currency, with 43% of those remembering what the ad was for. When asked what would encourage them to watch a pre-roll ad the most, the top answers were: to earn real money (44.8%), followed closely by earning in-game currency (30%), then access to exclusive content such as in-game items or video (19%). Surprisingly, only one kid answered ‘free pizza’….

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Incentivised pre-roll emerges as a very effective option in engaging kids and making them feel they are getting value from an ad – providing the video is short and sweet. The most common complaints about pre-roll ads are that they can be ‘long’ and ‘boring’.

To find out more about the findings of this study, speak to our Insights team. If you’re interested in finding the right ad format for your kid-safe brand campaign, chat with us!