Masthead, reskin ad formats are among the most effective for holiday season

By Matthew Snyder

ResponsiveAds, Inc.

New York, USA


As we enter the fourth quarter and the holiday season, now is the time to ramp up and sell in an accelerated fashion. If you are not yet, it may not be too late to pivot to the right ad sales strategy for your properties.

The Q4 holiday season is known for high-consumer spending, and news inventory should be at its prime as a great place to have those specialty-targeted deal campaigns for your advertisers.

The holiday season is a great opportunity for advertisers to tap into specialty-targeted deal campaigns. Reference: Google
The holiday season is a great opportunity for advertisers to tap into specialty-targeted deal campaigns. Reference: Google

Selling direct I/O while building a sales team versus selling programmatic has its advantages and disadvantages, but several of the key benefits are as follows.

Advantages of direct sales

Direct sales typically yield higher CPM (cost per mille/cost per thousand) rates because publishers can negotiate premium prices with advertisers. Advertisers may pay more for guaranteed ad placements in premium content or specific sections of a news Web site.

Publishers also have more control over the types of ads displayed and where they are placed on their Web sites. This control allows publishers to maintain the integrity of their content and user experience, ensuring that ads align with their brand values and editorial guidelines.

Additionally, direct sales enable publishers to create custom advertising packages tailored to individual advertiser needs. This can include branded content, native advertising, and sponsorships, which can be lucrative revenue streams.

Direct sales involve building relationships with advertisers, which can lead to long-term partnerships and repeat business. Strong relationships can result in more reliable revenue streams and a deeper understanding of advertisers’ goals.

Finally, publishers can exercise greater control over the brands and messages associated with their content, reducing the risk of running ads that may be controversial or detrimental to their brand image.

Advantages of programmatic advertising

Programmatic advertising automates the buying and selling of ads through real-time bidding. This efficiency reduces the need for manual sales efforts, making it easier for publishers to scale their advertising operations.

Programmatic advertising can also access a vast pool of advertisers and demand sources, increasing the potential for filling ad inventory and generating revenue from a diverse range of advertisers.

It uses data and algorithms to target ads to specific user segments, resulting in more relevant and engaging ads. This can lead to higher click-through rates and improved user experiences.

Automated algorithms can continuously optimise ad placements, ensuring the highest-yielding ads are displayed to users. This can maximise revenue for publishers.

Additionally, programmatic platforms provide publishers with real-time insights into ad performance, allowing them to make data-driven decisions and adjust their strategies quickly.

Finally, programmatic advertising can help publishers monetise unsold ad inventory by filling remnant spaces with programmatic ads, minimising revenue losses.

Q4 advertising strategy

One may argue that one approach is better than the other, but a mixed or blended approach can give news publishers the optimum overall control. However, Q4 is the time to sell direct and sell hard.

Advertisers are spending and clearing budgets this time of the year and looking for those great opportunities. If you can sell direct, expect a six to 10-fold spread of direct over programmatic.

For direct-sold campaigns news publishers could expect, on average, US$5 to US$30 CPM rates or even higher for premium placements. This depends on factors such as audience demographics and content quality. High-demand niches or exclusive deals could result in even higher CPM rates.

For programmatic advertising, CPM rates can range from US$0.50 to US$5. They are generally lower than those of direct-sold campaigns.

If you are a publisher interested in selling direct, the top four formats we found to optimise revenue through ad sales include the following: masthead, reskin, scroller, and adhesion. It’s even better if you can get these formats to fluidly respond to work across mobile, tablet, and desktop.

Masthead (push-up/down)

The masthead should be the unparalleled flagship of any news publisher. Served in a slot above the navigation as the user scrolls down the page, it shrinks up (a push-up) to a narrower leaderboard size. Options range from an edge-to-edge 4x1 to a 10x1 on desktop at the breakpoint that makes most sense with the publisher property. It can switch to 16x9 to 6x1 on mobile.

Reskin (homepage takeover)

The reskin is another high-impact format that can sell at a premium and is perfect for the Q4 holiday season. Most publishers may use the reskin as two different formats for the left- and right-side panels. It can be also sold as one unit called the dynamic sidebar.

However, when the unit is responsive, it can be a single format served to fill the side panels with the companion fluid 250H format running below the navigation in the 970x250 slot. This responsive format we call fluid 250H as it is at max width and always 250 pixels high.

Scroller (understitial or in-page full-flex)

The scroller (or inter-scroller/page-scroller) is an understitial, high-impact format that offers a full-page experience for users. Mostly known for its prominence on mobile, as a responsive format, it can occupy all screens responsively. This is served in the mid-page slot without any code required on the page. It offers 100% full-page branding opportunities.

Many publishers like this format due to the strong opportunity to combine it with video as a video-scroller. As it is not at the top of the site, it is not a conflict for editorial, but it offers a large canvas for advertisers to really drive messaging and content to users.


The adhesion (or catfish or sticky) is one of the oldest and most common formats. However, getting the full-bleed edge-to-edge is important for the quality of the creative, and it is a perfect place for advertisers to have their messages cross-screen.

Many publishers do not embrace this as it does appear somewhat intrusive to the editorial content, but it is a very effective placement and format for advertisers to communicate with consumers and users.

In conclusion

What makes these four formats impactful for the holiday season is how they integrate nicely with the Web site and do not fit as standard units that can be overlooked by consumers due to “banner blindness.”

They are effective at not only offering a beautiful integration into the site if done properly, but they offer the most attractive way to sell media for publishers in order to take advantage of the Q4 spending season.

About Matthew Snyder

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