9 minutes read

Trends. Some keep up with them, some defy them.

But whether we love them or hate them, they can give us useful information about the evolution of the industry. With the world of marketing and advertising being one of the most fast-paced and ever-changing environments, it’s a good idea to look at what others are doing and note down some tricks that might be useful for you.

Here are the 2021 display ad design trends and statistics to help you stay on top of the game.


  1. Most used design types
  2. Most used sizes according to formats
  3. Most used fonts
  4. Most used colors
  5. Usage of own images vs. stock images
  6. Usage of templates vs. custom designs
  7. Most popular formats for download

TL;DR

  • 54% of the designs were animated ads, proving the format’s growing popularity once again
  • The most used display ad sizes are 336×280 (Large Rectangle) for static formats and 300×250 (Medium Rectangle) for animated and video formats
  • Roboto is the most used font, being featured in 11% of the designs we analyzed
  • In terms of background colors, most display ads use black, white, blue, and red gradients
  • 92.22% of the designs featured branded images as opposed to stock photos
  • Users preferred to create their own designs rather than use templates: 70% of the ads were made from scratch
  • 25% of the designs (whether they were single designs or design sets) were JPG formats

Display ad design trends and statistics 2021 by Creatopy

Methodology

In order to achieve a holistic view of this year’s display ad design trends, we gathered data from over 500K designs created on our platform between February and September 2021. We took into consideration the following details that can differentiate a design from another:

  • Display ad-size;
  • Presence of audio/video;
  • Static, animated, and video designs;
  • Family of fonts used;
  • Colors used;
  • Usage of own images vs. stock images;
  • Usage of templates vs. custom designs

For an even better overview regarding the changes in users’ design preferences, we compared some of our findings to those from our banner ad design statistics and trends research from 2018.

1. Most Used Design Types

Most used design types for display ads in 2021.

When talking about the most used design types, we refer to static, animated formats and those that include audio and video.

The first thing we noticed was that out of the total number of designs, 54% were animated, while 44% were static. Additionally, 1.17% of designs featured video without audio, and 0.19% included only audio with no video.

Static ads have always been a go-to for advertisers, but the love for animated ads is not surprising.

We can see a correlation between the popularity of animated ads and the increase in online video consumption. Although the latter has seen steady growth throughout the years, it skyrocketed in 2020, as we watched Youtube videos and browsed streaming platforms more than ever before. We are less likely to pay attention to one interesting image and more likely to be captured by movement and sound.

We also took a liking to interactive media. Whether it’s pressing the heart button on TikTok or choosing Stefan’s next move in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, we’re all looking for a connection with what we consume.

In short, we engage. We love engaging, and we actively look for ways to engage with the media we consume—and animated ads fulfill this desire better than static ads.

This doesn’t mean that static ads are suddenly not worth focusing on when working on your marketing strategy. This simply means that it’s worth paying extra attention to creating animated ads, too, as there seems to be a clear need for more engaging content, even in the world of advertising.

2. Most Used Sizes According to Formats

Most used display ad formats in 2021.

To find the most used display ad sizes, we first looked at the most used size overall without considering any other attributes. After that, we took a look at the three formats separately: static, animated, and video.

Without considering any attributes, we see that the most used size for display ads is 336×280 (Large Rectangle). This same size reigns supreme when it comes to static formats.

Most used static display ad formats in 2021

When we conducted our analysis in 2018, the 336×280 unit was the second most used size, while 300×250 (Medium Rectangle) was the first. This year, they switched places.

The only difference between the two is that 336×280 is larger. However, it seems to be enough to make advertisers switch sides. The 336×280 unit has all the benefits of its little sibling, with the bonus of offering better readability due to its larger area allowing for bigger fonts and images.

most used animated display sizes 2021

When it comes to animated and video formats, though, the most used size is still 300×250. The fact that this is a commonly used size for mobile ads might be the major reason why it still calls the shots here. A smaller size reduces the loading time for non-static ads, making for a better mobile user experience.

 

video sizes used for display ads

These numbers tell us that quality is one of the most important features when it comes to creating display ads. A sharp and clean design is one of those seemingly small details that go a long way. It reflects well on the brand, makes it stand out among its competitors, and can give a great first impression to customers.

3. Most Used Fonts

Most used fonts for display ads in 2021

In the case of the most used fonts, we compared our findings to our report from 2018 and saw that the three fonts that were popular back then—Gotham, Myriad Pro, and Helvetica Neue LT Std—failed to gain a place in the top five spots. And it’s not because Comic Sans is suddenly cool again.

Roboto takes the lead as of now, with almost 11% of designs containing this specific font. We also see its little sibling Roboto Condensed occupying the fifth spot, being present in almost 5% of the designs we’ve analyzed. Between these two, we have Poppins, Montserrat, and Lato. All five of these fonts belong to the sans-serif typeface family, characterized by neutral weight and open letters.

We also looked at where the fonts came from and found that 80% of designs featured Google fonts, and 15% were custom-made. Only 4% of them had fonts from Creatopy or other sources.

When it comes to the look of the fonts, opinions will vary greatly. Some designers will recommend a certain font wholeheartedly, while others will tell you that it’s overused and you should always go for something fresh for your ads. It’s difficult to assess people’s true feelings about them, regardless of how widely a handful of them are used. Not to mention your choice of font heavily depends on the nature of your business and what sort of message you want to transmit.

However, these numbers that we have seen are a testament to the fact that you can never go wrong with something simple and easy on the eyes, with a touch of elegance.

As for the source of the fonts, the numbers tell us that users prefer to choose from those already available instead of using their own. Considering that creating custom fonts can be much more time-consuming and expensive, it’s understandable why users would lean towards the myriad of font options made available by Google and other sources.

4. Most Used Colors

Most used background colors for display ads in 2021

While figuring out the most used colors, we extracted the information from designs made without images. As such, the results you see are in regards to background colors. It’s also important to note that these are not exclusively solid backgrounds—most of the designs feature gradient backgrounds.

Based on our research, we concluded that the colors that users typically reach for are white and black, followed by the primary colors red and blue.

Much like in the case of fonts, there are endless reasons why someone would use a specific color for their display ads. It relies heavily on the brand’s message as well as personal preference.

However, we can be sure that the universal usability of white, black, red, and blue helps them gain popularity in users’ eyes. Blue, for example, can be associated with water, sky, flight, freedom, sincerity, and more. For this reason, you will see it used in ads for pharmaceutical companies, travel agencies, educational institutions, and fancy resorts. Likewise, red can symbolize anything between confidence and romance, which is why you will see it in Old Spice ads and Valentine’s Day-themed ads. Black and white can often be found in the ads of luxury brands and tech companies.

The versatility of these four colors makes them perfect candidates for many brands’ visual identity.

5. Usage of Own Images vs. Stock Images

Usage of own images vs. stock images for display ads in 2021

It’s a well-known fact that as convenient as stock images are, it’s always advisable for designers and marketers to use their own branded images whenever and wherever it’s possible. So the fact that nearly 93% of the designs we’ve analyzed used branded images is not shocking.

When we compared it to our ad design trends and statistics from 2018, we saw that the percentages were almost identical. Three years ago, about 88% of the designs we looked at featured branded images, while the rest used stock images.

This goes to show that even though there is a rich resource for quality stock photos for free or a very low price, it’s going to take quite some time to knock branded images off the pedestal.

The numbers speak for themselves—branded images are here to stay.

6. Usage of Templates vs. Custom Designs

templates usage display ad design 2021

Seeing the results of the section above, we can easily predict whether or not custom designs are still a popular choice.

They are.

According to our findings, almost 70% of the designs we’ve analyzed were created from scratch, while only 30.26% used templates already available in the app. Although templates have gained a few percentages in the three years since we last conducted this analysis, designs made from scratch still won the overwhelming majority.

Just like in the previous case regarding stock images and branded images, we can see that users tend to gravitate towards completely original designs—despite the fact that it means spending more time on one ad. This does not mean that templates are completely useless. It simply means that whenever and wherever possible, users are eager to add their personal touch to their ads in an effort to stand out from the crowd.

7. Most Popular Formats for Download

Most popular formats for download for display ads in 2021

In order to get an accurate picture of the most popular formats, we paid attention to download events. A download event can mean either the download of a single design or of a design set (i.e., one set containing multiple designs).

Taking these into consideration, we saw that JPG is the most chosen format for download. 25% of the designs we looked at were JPG formats, while 21% were HTML and 20% were MP4. 16% of the designs were PNG formats, and only 6% were GIFs.

JPG’s continuous popularity can be attributed to its convenience, given that it’s the format that occupies the least space. The same thing can be said about MP4 when it comes to videos. For this reason, MP4 is also known as the most versatile format, as it is compatible with most streaming sites, operating systems, and media players.

With that being said, no format is perfect, and in the case of JPG and MP4, their smaller sizes can decrease the quality of the images and videos. Therefore it’s no surprise that users will look for alternative formats that they can save their designs in, and this is where HTML comes into play. HTML offers more freedom for designers, as you can use different scripts when editing them, like CSS or JavaScript. It’s also mobile-friendly and responsive and allows you to embed rich media content. All of this can be done without sacrificing quality, making it an amazing alternative to JPG and MP4.

Conclusion

If there is one thing that we can all learn from this research, it’s that even though trends can change, there is something that is always the same: the need for quality and efficiency.

Whether we use stock photos or not, our own fonts or get them from Google, use blue or turquoise for the backgrounds—we’re all looking for ways to deliver the best display ads in a short time with as little effort as possible. As long as we have the tools to do that, our creativity will be limitless.

And we’ll continue to create new trends in the next three years and beyond.

Are you planning on following any of these trends? Did any of our findings surprise you?

Monica Aldea
Content Marketing Specialist at Creatopy - Hufflepuff in life. Always ready to comment on movies and pop culture, even at family dinners. Constantly cooking up story ideas.

    6 Comments

    1. thanks for sharing this information.

    2. This is one of those articles where you won’t get bored of reading. Kudos to this amazing writer for doing such a wonderful job with this topic.

      I actually agree with this, most of the ads that we see nowadays are using all of those that this article have mentioned so far. As someone who uses apps for editing purposes, I try as much as I can to come up with new ideas for designs that I could be proud of showing to others. But editors who do have to come up with ad ideas, they need to remember that quality and efficiency should never be compromise even if time and sources allotted are scarce.

      And the way she mentioned and inserted the Black Mirror: Bandersnatch really made it more fun to us readers who love watching series like that. Hope to see more articles from her and this blog! Keep up the good work!

    3. Hi Anne! I’m excited to hear this was such a fun read for you. I hope the article managed to inspire you and give you some ideas for your next designs.

      That’s very true. Trends come and go, but quality will always be a priority when designing ads, and it’s worth spending extra time and energy on it. After all, your audience deserves to see good quality ads.

      We will definitely tackle similar topics in the future, so stay tuned!

    4. Thanks for sharing this information. Kudos to this amazing writer for doing such a wonderful job with this topic

    5. Thanks for sharing this information.very nice article

    6. The advertising design process is about constantly looking for new means of expressing an idea that could grab the viewer’s attention and interest.

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