When it comes to digital ad campaigns, visuals attract the eye far more effectively than simple copy, no matter how well-written.

From rich media creatives to eye-catching videos (and increasingly GIFs), advertising on digital platforms becomes an exercise in who can create not only the most appealing message, but marry that message to images and media that demand your target audience’s attention.

With certain types of images leading to a 90% increase in click-through rate, using the right media is very important.

The good news is, there are plenty of options available, from free stock image sites to stock video sites, as well as premium options, to meet all of your digital ad campaign needs.

Stock Image Sites

Depending on your needs (and your budget), there are a host of stock image sitesfree and premiumwhere you can search for and download images for your ad campaign.

Each site offers either royalty-free options (where the owner of the image has uploaded it to be used by anyone for anything) or the option to buy an image and have the rights transferred to you.

Getty Images (free)

Once only the domain of journalists and news media, Getty Images opened up 35 million images to the public in 2014.

Utilizing the same approach as YouTube, they allowed bloggers and social media sites to embed images, with a Getty Images link back to the company.

Going one step further, Taboola partnered with Getty Images in 2017 to allow royalty-free images that can also be AB tested for maximum performance.

Pixabay (free)

With almost 2 million royalty-free images uploaded by photographers and illustrators, as well as video files, Pixabay has become one of the leading providers for media online.

You simply create a free account, use the search option to find the media you’re looking for, and then download.

While there is an option to “tip” the original owner, this is entirely at your discretion.

iStock (premium)

Purchased in 2006 by Getty Images, iStock is a Canadian-based media repository that offers royalty-free images, videos, and audio tracks for a monthly or pay-as-you-go fee.

Files are charged by “credits,” with the size of the file and type determining how many credits are needed to purchase.

While the cost can soon add up (pay-as-you-go starts at $36 for three credits, with monthly subscriptions starting at $85 per month for up to 10 files), iStock remains a popular solution for agencies and media buyers.

Stock Video Sites

As visually appealing as the right image is, a well-crafted video can tell an even more immersive and persuasive story.

Traditionally, video production for digital ad campaigns could run into tens of thousands of dollars to create (if not much more).

With the emergence of stock video sites, however, as well as those where you can request unique creations just for your brand or campaign, costs have decreased exponentially, leaving more budget for A/B testing and optimization.


Originally a video upload site in competition with YouTube, Vimeo has grown to become a rich marketplace where video creators sell their videos directly, or rent them for a dedicated timeline.

You can search for videos to buy, rent, or even subscribe to, if there’s a creator whose work you like and wish to use regularly.

While a premium service, direct agreements can make Vimeo a less expensive option than creating original videos in-house.

Pexels Videos (free)

Working in the method that Pixabay does for images, Pexels Videos offer royalty-free stock videos that can be downloaded for both personal and commercial use.

They offer their most popular terms for searching, as well as allow you to filter by content type.

With a growing database of creators, Pexels is becoming a worthy addition to the range of stock video sites online.


While not technically videos, GIFs are becoming increasingly effective when it comes to digital ad campaigns.

Playing off pop culture references, GIFs can be both timely and quick-to-optimize, making your ad campaign relevant and on-point.

Giphy makes it easy for agencies to either download the perfect GIF, or to create your own.

With social media and communication platforms like Slack [arguably] making GIFs the default media source, Giphy stands out as the leader.

Digital Ad Campaigns, Media, and AB Testing

While picking the right image, video, or GIF, is key when it comes to sharing your message, it’s also important to understand how A/B testing plays a part when using media for your digital ad campaigns.

Recent consumer consumption trends show that certain images have a far more effective CTR than others.

For example, images with animals in them result in a 90% increase in CTR, compared with images centered around the outdoors, which see a 14% lift in CTR.

Depending on your brand, though, a 14% could be more relevant than a 90% lift—would you use animals to sell camping equipment, for example?

This is why it’s key that when pulling together creatives for your digital ad campaigns, you not only pick the right media, but A/B test to see what works.

It’s that combination that will take your next campaign from good, to great.

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