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Expandable Banners Increase Revenue Without Depleting Inventory

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Expandable banner ads provide a way of boosting revenue for sites that are running out of ad inventory.

Expandable banner ads provide a way of boosting revenue for sites that are running out of ad inventory.

The average growth rate of online audiences has slowed to single digits in recent years.

That means successful Web sites that want to grow audience aggressively must take market share away from competing sites.

It’s easier said than done. Don’t mind the cliche, because it’s true.

Sites with flat to moderate growth rate and aggressive sales, especially if they have direct sales, end up running out of inventory to sell.

In addition to finding more audience, a site can grow the revenue of existing ad positions and existing inventory by boosting the average CPM / RPM (cost per thousand or revenue per thousand depending on the point of view).

A 970×90 expandable banner ad can provide the justification for boosting rates.

Expandable Banner Creative

The 728×90 leaderboard ad, which usually appears at the top of pages, is one of the most popular ad sizes for desktop-viewable sites (as opposed to mobile-optimized sites, which can’t display a banner that wide on a smartphone).

The 728×90 is part of the Internet Advertising Bureau’s universal ad package and widely embraced by the advertising industry.

But that size also is not efficient with space when it appears at the top of the typical page. Because most Web sites are more than 900 pixels wide, the 728×90 fills most of a horizontal strip at the top while leaving blocks of white space on either side.

Some sites put content on either side of the leaderboard to fill that white space, but the content detracts from the ad and runs the risk of reducing response rates and branding.

More recently, the 970×90 has grown in popularity as a way of using that space more efficiently.

The increased size may create an opportunity to boost ad rates, but not by much because it largely provides the same branding and response levels as the 728×90. A review of some rate cards shows that it rarely gets a higher rate.

An expandable banner creates the better opportunity depending on how it is implemented:

  1. The banner expands automatically to a depth of 250 pixels or more when someone comes to the page. The visitor must click on a close button to shrink it back to 970×90.
  2. The banner expands automatically after a pause and contracts again automatically.
  3. The banner only expands when someone hovers the cursor over the ad. It either closes again when the cursor moves off the expanded ad or requires clicking on a close button.

The typical visitor doesn’t enjoy the intrusiveness of an expandable banner, but if the site is free, it’s a price they must pay for the site to grow or remain in business.

The size of the expanded image is optional but should not go below the browser status bar at the bottom of the screen. It also depends on the creative needs of the advertiser. Some typical sizes range from 250 to 450 pixels.

Expandable Banner Rates

Sites vary in their ability to command certain CPMs depending on their industry, the competition, sellout rate and other factors.

All new advertising initiatives should start with an introductory rate that adjusts after a period of time, such as three months, after considering the market’s acceptance rate and the creative’s average click rate.

Sites may also want to consider any negative feedback from users based on which type of creative is used.

Although many sites sell expandable banners for double the static leaderboard rate, a site rolling it out for the first time might consider an introductory rate to attract attention.

One rate that is simple to implement is a 50 percent premium (or some similar percentage) over the going rate for the 728×90.

So if the 728×90 gets a $10 CPM, the expandable would have an introductory rate of $15.

One justification for the higher rate comes in the form of extra labor. A typical 728×90 ad requires one image. An expandable ad requires two. If the advertiser needs the publisher to make the creative, those two images require double the labor or more on the part of the publisher.

When the response rates and market acceptance become clear, the rate can adjust to the right level — up to 100 percent more than the static leaderboard rate.

The publisher now gets up to 100 percent more revenue (or ideally even more) from the leaderboard position even if page views and ad inventory don’t grow at all.

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