Which is The Best LinkedIn Ad Format? (in 2021)

If you are thinking about advertising on LinkedIn, one of the most important things that you will have to decide before launching your campaign is the format of your ads. However, if you don’t have the budget to test all 7 of them, how do you know which is the best LinkedIn ad format that you could start with?

After having worked for years with different LinkedIn campaigns and formats, I decided to share my experience and give the final verdict of which one has the highest chances of driving the best results for your business.

how to create linkedin ads - choosing ad formats

Which is the best LinkedIn ad format? Is it the good old Sponsored Content? Or the new and exciting Conversation ad?

Today, we are finding out:

Which LinkedIn ad format is the best?

The best LinkedIn ad format for most businesses is Sponsored Content. It works well because it blends perfectly with LinkedIn’s feed, making the ads less intrusive and more appealing to the users, resulting in higher conversion and CTR.

Here is an example of a Sponsored Content (Single Image ad):

best linkedin ad format - sponsored content

Best LinkedIn ad format: Single image ad (Sponsored Content)

This format typically consists of an image, ad copy and ad headline, and it looks very similar to regular organic posts. The main difference is that it is marked as Promoted.

Of course, while this format typically drives the most conversions, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore the rest and forget about them completely. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

LinkedIn objectives

The right ad format for your campaign will also depend on your goals. Not all Campaign objectives support all ad formats. For example, if your goal is to drive more Video Views, you won’t have the option to select Sponsored Content.

We will see more about objectives a little bit further in the article.

Variable factors

Results may vary between products and industries, so if you have the opportunity and budget, I still recommend that you do your own testing to find out what works the best for you. You may find out that, for your particular niche, another format drives better results.

mission statement examples

LinkedIn ad formats: Pros & Cons

To better understand the differences between formats, and what made me conclude that Sponsored Content is the best LinkedIn ad format, let’s take a look at this table:

Ad format Pros Cons
Single image ad Blends with LinkedIn’s feed Most competitive ad format
Carousel image ad Breaks the traditional dynamic of the feed Requires more time and attention from the user
Video ad Entertaining; more space for information Converts less; users don’t click much on videos
Text ad Cheapest ad format The least visual; doesn’t draw the attention
Spotlight ad Dynamic; use image from the user’s profile Extremely limited ad space for advertisers
Message ad More direct, making the ad feel more personal Can be intrusive if not use properly
Conversation ad Highly dynamic; mimics actual user interaction Requires time and proactiveness from the user
Event ad Makes it extremely easy to promote your events; Doesn’t work for events organized outside LinkedIn

 

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each ad format?

1. Single image ad

linkedin ad formats - single image ad

Pros Cons
Blends with LinkedIn’s feed Most competitive ad format

 

As we mentioned previously, Sponsored Content blends perfectly with LinkedIn’s feed, making it the least intrusive and most “organic” looking ad format.

Because it looks like a regular post, it doesn’t distract the users when scrolling through their feed, and they are more likely to click on it without noticing that it’s an ad.

Notice that in the table, I said the “the most competitive” but not “the most expensive”. The reason why is because LinkedIn has more ad space for this format compared to other ones. Additionally, if you improve the quality score of your campaign, you may reduce CPC even more.

2. Carousel image ad

carousel ad linkedin

Pros Cons
Breaks the traditional dynamic of the feed Requires more time and attention from the user

 

Carousel image ads are exceptionally visual, and they are perfect for showcasing your product portfolio, resource collection, or simply enumerating the benefits of your service. If designed properly, they can draw the attention much more than Sponsored Content.

However, the main reason why they are not the best LinkedIn ad format is because having to process so much information and read the headlines of all cards to understand the product requires time and attention.

Most users scroll through their feed rather quickly until they find something interesting, so they won’t always commit to making a pause and reading the full ad. Instead, they will simply skip through it, even if it caught their attention for a second.

3. Video ad

Pros Cons
Entertaining; more space for information Converts less; users don’t click much on videos

 

If your goal is to increase brand awareness, videos ads are undoubtedly one of the best ad formats to go with. However, if want to generate more leads and drive more tangible results for your organization, they are not as half as efficient as Sponsored Content.

There are two reasons why. On one hand, when users watch a video, they don’t typically associate it with an ad, or with having to click somewhere for more information. They just stop for a minute, watch the video, and continue scrolling through their feed.

On another hand, clicking on the video itself doesn’t take the user to a landing page or a Lead Gen form. The only way to get there is to click the CTA button right below the video, which is not precisely the most visible. With Single image ads, for example, you can click anywhere on the ad to be taken to a landing page.

4. Text ad

Pros Cons
Cheapest ad format The least visual; doesn’t draw the attention

 

Text ads typically appear at the top of the page as a single line of text:

Or at the right column of your feed:

linkedin text ad

Among all ad formats, Text ads are undoubtedly the cheapest ones. However, there is a big reason why I didn’t consider them to be the best LinkedIn ad format.

Text ads tend to be inexpensive because not many advertisers are bidding for them. Since they don’t include any images, or only include a tiny logo next to them on some occasions, they barely draw the attention enough to be clicked on.

This results in poor performance for the ad format, and many advertisers opting for other formats instead – hence the lower prices.

5. Spotlight ad

Pros Cons
Dynamic; use image from the user’s profile Extremely limited ad space for advertisers

 

Spotlight ads are a part of a bigger format called Dynamics ads (which also includes Follower ads and Content ads), and you can use them for a variety of purposes, from driving more followers to your company page to searching for job candidates.

However, the main problem with them (and the reason why I don’t consider them the best LinkedIn ad format) is that they are extremely limited in space. 

This gives little opportunity for advertisers to entice users to click on their ad, and makes the clicks more expensive without compensating with higher conversion.

6. Message Ad

message ad - linkedin inmail - sponsored inmail

Pros Cons
More direct, making the ad feel more personal Can be intrusive if not use properly

 

Next, we have Message Ads, also known as InMail. These are ads that are delivered directly to your target audience’s inbox, and they are typically accompanied by an image, although it’s not obligatory.

While InMails are great for establishing a more direct connection with your audience, I don’t consider them the best LinkedIn ad format because they might feel intrusive for some users.

From what I’ve seen, they don’t have the highest conversion rate either – as people quickly read through the InMail when they get the notification, and go back to their feed.

7. Conversation Ad

Image source: instapage.com

Pros Cons
Highly dynamic; mimics actual user interaction Requires time and proactiveness from the user

 

And last but not least, we have the newest ad format – Conversation ads. They are particularly dynamic, and they are designed to help you start a quality conversation with your audience by providing a choose-your-own-path experience.

The reason why I think that they are not the best LinkedIn ad format is because they are relatively new, and they haven’t been tested enough yet by LinkedIn through different advertisers. So, it’s too early to make conclusions.

However, from my own experience, they tend to have similar Cost per Conversion as InMail, which is significantly higher than Sponsored Content.

8. Event ad

linkedin live events

Ad format Pros Cons
Event ad Makes it extremely easy to promote your live events Doesn’t work for events organized outside LinkedIn

 

Before we decide on the best LinkedIn ad format, we have to mention the latest addition to Campaign Manager – the so-called Event ads. They allow companies to drive more sign ups for their events in a simple and easy way that can later be leveraged for remarketing.

While it’s an important and extremely interesting addition for promoting your events from the comfort of LinkedIn’s feed, it doesn’t really participate in our competition on the best LinkedIn ad format.

The main reason why is simple – it is such a specific format for such a particular action that it won’t be able to compare fairly with the rest of the formats that allow for a wide variety of actions.

What ad formats does each Campaign Objective support?

In the beginning of the article, we mentioned that not all campaign objectives that LinkedIn offers support all ad formats. So, if you have a very specific goal in mind, such as generating leads with LinkedIn’s native forms, you are only limited to certain ad formats.

To help you understand better which ad formats are supported by each objective, I made this graphic:

Best LinkedIn Ad Format: Conclusion

To wrap it up, Sponsored Content is the best LinkedIn ad format because it’s visual, versatile, non-intrusive, and fits LinkedIn’s feed without interrupting user experience.

Additionally, when combined with the platform’s native Lead Gen forms, it can be a powerful tool for generating high-quality leads at affordable prices. However, if you have the opportunity, I highly suggest that you test for yourself as well!

Companies and niches are different, and you may be surprised at works and doesn’t work for you.

That was all from me for today! Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and I hope to see you in the next one!

Do you want to become an expert in LinkedIn advertising? Get my ebook “The Complete Guide to LinkedIn Advertising!”


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