When you are running a complex ad setup with many display conditions or visitor conditions set up with your ads, you might ask yourself what happens if none of the ads is matching the criteria to show up on specific pages or for some visitors. The solution is a fallback ad or passback ad, an ad that has no limiting conditions and will therefore show if none of the others match. In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to set it them up.

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 they are not able to fill an impression.

There are multiple names for this kind of technique.

  • fallback ad
  • passback ad
  • back fill

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?

Setting up a passback 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:

1. 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 ad, a custom banner or whatever you like.

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

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

Don’t leave the ad edit screen yet.

2. Assign the ad to an ad group

Search for the Ad Groups meta box now.

If you already have an existing ad group that the passback should be assigned to, then simply select the group now.

selected ad groups

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

Now publish your ad. Yes, I said “publish”, so let’s move on quickly.

2. Creating the 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.

ordered ads options

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

ordered group passback setup

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. based on the display and visitor conditions – the next ad is checked. The passback will be checked last and therefore only displayed if the others are not a match.

In my example above I have a premium campaign that is 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 that can be displayed according to its conditions. So this option does not work with the fallback scenario described above.