How to create a fallback ad?

A fallback ad is displayed when your best paying ads are not delivered (anymore).

This can happen when you have targeted ad places using display or visitor conditions, which leaves some users or pages out. Or you sold ad space and want to make sure that an alternative ad shows up as soon as the paid campaign ends.

The solution is a fallback ad. It is basically an ad without restrictive conditions that will show widely if no better paying campaign is available. In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to set up fallback ads.

Fallback ads are also known as

  • passback ads
  • house ads
  • backfill ads

About passback ads

I meet the concept of a fallback ad mostly when dealing with ad networks that don’t guarantee a 100% fill rate. They sometimes offer to deliver another ad in case that they are not able to fill an impression.

There are multiple names for this kind of technique like passback, fallback banner, backfill ads, and probably some more.

In case you are running your ads with Advanced Ads, there are a couple of reasons to set up a fallback ad:

  • you work with self-expiring ads
  • you have multiple visitor conditions
  • you have high paying ads on specific pages, but still want to show an ad on all the other pages

How to set up a passback ad?

Setting up a passback or fallback ad in Advanced Ads is quite easy. In a nutshell: you only have to create an ad group with the “ordered” type and make your passback ad to be the last one in this order.

Here is the detailed instruction:

Create the passback ad

A passback ad is nothing special. Just go to Advanced Ads > Ads and create a new ad that will serve as your passback. It can be like any other ad, e.g., you can have an AdSense backfill, a custom fallback banner, or whatever you like.

The only thing you need to remember is not to make too many limitations with display conditions or visitor conditions for the ad to show up.

Remember, this ad unit will not compete with others for the same impression and will only show when other ads are not delivered. So don’t worry about it taking ad impressions away from your premium ads.

Don’t leave the ad edit screen yet.

Assign the ad to an existing ad group

Search for the Ad Groups meta box now.

If you want to assign the passback ad to an existing ad group, then simply select this group now.

This imahe shows an ad group in Advanced Ads.
Select an ad group to assign the fallback ad to it

If you don’t have the group yet, click on Add New Ad Group and create it.

Now publish your ad.

Create a new group

Head over to Advanced Ads > Groups.

Search for your ad group and click on the name to edit it. Now change it to the ordered type like in the image below.

Choosing the ordered ad type for the ad group.
Choose the ordered ad type for the ad group

The next step is to set up the weight of the ads within the group. Our passback should have the lowest weight here.

Adjusting the ad weights in an ad group.
Adjust the ad weights to set up your passback ad

The ordered ad group checks every ad in the order that is defined by the ad weight. If the ad can’t be displayed – e.g., because of limiting display and visitor conditions – the next ad is checked. Advanced Ads will check the fallback ad last and, therefore, only display it if the others are not a match.

In my example above, I have a premium campaign going to expire at the end of August 2015. If this campaign is not delivered (anymore), I have a high performing ad only for new visitors. If the visitor is not new, this ad won’t show up (because the visitor condition fails), and my AdSense passback is delivered.

A note about using the Refresh option

Using the Refresh option in the group settings would show all ads in the given order and not stop with the first one displayed according to its conditions. So this option does not work with the fallback scenario described above.


Starting in 2009, Thomas’ own word game website grew to 40 MM page impressions per month. He then built Advanced Ads to help his colleagues to place ads and test different ad positions and networks tests without any coding skills. Thomas now enjoys improving the product for our more than 150,000 users worldwide.

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