The 6 LinkedIn Ad Formats & When to Use Them

With more than 500 million members, LinkedIn is undoubtedly one of the most important social media platforms for advertising. It is especially efficient for B2B companies – in fact, statistics show that over 80% of social media generated B2B leads come from LinkedIn. However, it is also not a secret that LinkedIn advertising is far from being cheap compared to other social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. For this reason, it is extremely important to know all LinkedIn Ad formats and in what case is the best to use them to achieve your goals.

Introduction to LinkedIn Ad Formats

linkedin ad formats

Currently, LinkedIn offers 6 different ad formats:

  • Single image ad – an ad with a single image, also known as Sponsored Content;
  • Carousel image ad – a collection of at least 2 images that follow one after another;
  • Video ad – ads using video that shows up in the user’s feed;
  • Text ad – text-based ads that can show up in the right column of your feed, or on top of the page;
  • Spotlight ad – personalized ads created with the user’s profile data;
  • Message ad – an ad that sends messages right into the user’s inbox.

Below, we will see each ad in details individually – what it is, where it appears on your audience’s feed, and when should you use it depending on your goals. Also, I will show you LinkedIn’s bid suggestion for a specific segmentation to compare which type is the cheapest and which one – the most expensive.

For this example, our audience will be simple. Professionals living in Madrid with Job Functions in Finance, Accounting and Purchase who work in companies with more than 11 employees:

target audience linkedin

Which amounts to a total audience of approximately 96 000 people. By checking the suggested bid that appears at the bottom of our Campaign Setup page, we will be able to get an idea of which ad format has the highest Cost Per Click / View / Send. Of course, this is just an exercise to get the overall idea.

Keep in mind that this will vary depending on your niche, industry, target audience, and most importantly – other advertisers. After all, the recommended bid is calculated based on what other similar advertisers are bidding.

Format 1: Single Image Ad – Sponsored Content

  • Ideal for: lead generation
  • Recommended bid type (for our example): €5.49
  • Appears: on your feed

Sponsored Content is probably the most popular and most effective form of LinkedIn advertising. It appears on the feed of your target audience, integrating seamlessly around their organic content. In fact, it camouflages so well that you only know that the post is Sponsored by the word Promoted right below the company’s name:

bannerflow ad linkedin

sponsored content example

This type of advertising usually works well for practically everything – promoting an event or a webinar, a B2B product or service, ebooks, etc. It is the most versatile among all LinkedIn ad formats.

There are two ways of using Sponsored Content – you can either send the user to your own landing page, or create a LinkedIn Lead Gen form that automatically fills out data from the user’s LinkedIn profile.

As we mentioned above, the recommended bid for this ad format is quite high, about €5.49:

Format 2: Carousel Image Ad

  • Ideal for: displaying product portfolios or resources such as ebooks
  • Recommended bid type (for our example): €5.49
  • Appears: on your feed

Carousel Image Ads are exceptionally visual. They are perfect for displaying your product portfolio, resource collection, or showing off your ebook in a creative and interesting way. Of course, there are no limitations – you can use them for a variety of purposes. You should use at least 2 images, but no more than 10. Here are a few interesting examples that I found:carousel image ad linkedinSkill up For Your Future: a campaign for online courses that shows the job positions that you can reach with these courses.linkedin carousel adsCambia el Código: a campaign by Accenture España to represent their open job positions in a powerfully visual way.

The downside (or opportunity?) of this ad format is that the user will have to click manually on the arrows to see all images. This means that your ad will have to be captivating from the first image. Otherwise, he might just continue scrolling down without seeing your whole Carousel ad. On the positive note, if you managed to capture his attention from the beginning, he could potentially arrive to your landing by clicking on any card (not only the last one).

As you can see, in this case the suggested ad bid by LinkedIn is the same as in Sponsored Content.

Format 3: Video Ad

  • Ideal for: brand awareness
  • Recommended bid type (for our example): €5.49
  • Appears: on your feed

Video ads on LinkedIn are a great way to increase brand awareness. However, in my experience they are among the least efficient LinkedIn ad formats when it comes to lead generation. On one hand, users don’t typically associate them with having to click somewhere to fill out a landing form. They just stop for a minute, watch the video, and continue scrolling down.

On another hand, clicking on the video doesn’t take the user to a landing page. The only way to get there is to click the CTA button right below the video:

video ad linkedin

Which, I think we can all agree, is not the most attention-grabbing detail in the ad. The user has to be genuinely interested in your product after watching the video to click on the button. But this is not necessarily a bad thing – this way, you discover users who are truly interested in learning more about it.

Don’t get me wrong; video ads can be very efficient for brand awareness and maybe even lead generation if your video is amazing. But in my opinion, they are quite expensive to make, and not always have the best ROI. Especially if your budget is limited, you might want to be careful about its distribution. But hey, after all, it’s a matter of trial and error! So you should definitely give it a try.

Also, LinkedIn doesn’t charge for impressions, just for clicks – and in this case, it’s still the same as in Sponsored Content and Carousel.

Format 4: Text ad

  • Ideal for: brand awareness
  • Recommended bid type (for our example): €2.39
  • Appears: top of the page / right column

LinkedIn text ads are the most simple and the least visual ones among all LinkedIn ad formats. They usually appear on top of the page:

linkedin ad formats - text ads

Or in the right column of your feed:

Image source: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

Compared to other ad formats, they include little to no visual elements. They are also significantly cheaper – as you can see in our example, the suggested bid for this format is €2.39. This is almost two times less than the bid for Sponsored Content, Carousel, and even Video.

Personally, I haven’t had much experience with this type of ads, so I have no particular observations. But, considering that they aren’t very visual and quite “cheap”, I would say that they are better for brand awareness rather than lead generation. They are also a good option if you have a powerful ad statement that can fit into a single sentence. Otherwise, it is quite difficult to catch the user’s attention with text ads!

Format 5: Spotlight ad

  • Ideal for: job position offering / increase of following / lead generation
  • Recommended bid type (for our example): €6.45
  • Appears: right column

Spotlight ads appear in the right column of your feed and I find them quite attention-grabbing. They automatically extract the user’s LinkedIn profile image and place it into the ad:

Spotlight ad 1

Which, of course, immediately grabs your attention as you see your own photo within the ad. Although it’s a simple and automatic process for LinkedIn’s platform, it feels personalized to the user, which is always a good thing.

Spotlight ads are ideal for announcing open job positions that your audience could be a good fit for. They are also a good option for companies who want to increase their LinkedIn following quicker than organic ways.

And of course, you can simply use them for lead generation as we saw in the first example above.

These ads, although quite captivating, are very expensive as well! As you can see, the recommended bid by LinkedIn in our example is €6.45 – which is significantly higher than all the rest.

Format 6: Message Ad

  • Ideal for: lead generation / reaching very specific audiences
  • Recommended bid type (for our example): €0.10
  • Appears: in your target audience’s messaging inbox

Message Ads, also known as Sponsored InMails, are ads that are delivered directly to your target audience’s inbox. They are composed of various elements:

linkedin ad formats - sponsored inmail

The main element is the core text that appears in the center of the message. It usually includes more than one CTA – one in the beginning, in the upper left corner, and one at the bottom of the InMail.

InMails are usually (but not necessarily) accompanied by a visual element – a square banner in the right column of your inbox. This way, companies can increase their ad visibility and catch the user’s attention in multiple ways at the same time. However, it is important to keep in mind that users can’t send a response to the sender. 

This ad format is usually recommended for highly targeted audiences that you want to reach in a more direct way. LinkedIn is extremely careful with spam – so users usually don’t receive more than one Sponsored InMail from a brand within the same month.

Sponsored Inmail 2

As you can see, the suggested bid for a Sponsored InMail in this case is approximately 10 cents. This might sound like a small bid compared to other LinkedIn ad formats. However, InMail works in a different way than other forms of advertising.

It is important to keep in mind that the minimum recommended investment for an InMail sending is about 2000 EUR. In comparison, other formats can start running with significantly smaller investment, so this is a thing to consider when distributing your budget.


Choosing LinkedIn ad formats

Now that you are familiar with all ad formats available on LinkedIn, you are ready to start testing them to find out which one works the best for you.

Despite my opinions and observations, the best option is to always try all of them for yourself. After all, none is a one-size-fits-all! What works best for a company in the finance industry might not be the best option for a company in the healthcare sector.

It is also important to remember that once you’ve selected your ad format when creating a campaign, it can’t be changed later. Neither objectives nor formats can be modified once the campaign is saved. So make sure to have your campaign carefully planned beforehand.

My Experience with LinkedIn ad formats

To finish this article, I wanted to share a little bit of my personal experience with different types of advertising on LinkedIn.

From my experience and observations, Sponsored Content is probably the most efficient ad type in terms of lead generation and return on investment. In comparison, Spotlight ads are also effective but significantly more expensive.

On the other hand, InMail is cheaper but requires a higher investment at a time – and I would use it for a more direct approach in a context when decision making takes more time.

linkedin-matched-audiences-1540x768

Furthermore, I highly recommend pairing your ads with LinkedIn lead gen forms whenever the ad format allows it. Sponsored Content in particular is highly efficient with lead gen – I explain this in detail in my article Do LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms Work?. From my experience, the cost per lead can decrease up to 3 times when compared to a regular landing. So I definitely recommend you to give it a go and try for yourself!

On another hand, you can make especially powerful Sponsored Content campaigns using Matched Audiences and Lookalike Audiences. For more information about them, just click on the links provided!

Well, this was all from me for today! As always, I hope you enjoyed the content, and thank you for taking the time to read it! Also, don’t hesitate to leave me your comments, questions, personal observations, or anything that you want to share in the comments below. See you in the next article!


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