House Ads – What Are They Good For?

House AdsThere’s not much debate about the value of house ads. Maybe there never was. The house ad, like the TV promo, is just a way to fill some unsold inventory and promote the brand of a newspaper, magazine, or website. Or it could be an Ad Council placement.

At a time when sites can fill much of their inventory through exchanges, are house ads wasting valuable space on a page that could otherwise bring in a few pennies or dollars?

Put another way, what’s the CPM of self-promotion?

We asked three digital publishing executives if the house ad still has wheels or if it belongs in the trash with magazine subscription cards (aka “blow-in cards”) that fall from print publications and litter buses and subways?

Mark Howard, SVP of digital advertising strategy at Forbes Media

“House ads made sense at one time, but with the advancements we’re making with our programmatic sales, we now achieve a sell-through of 99.9% of all inventory on Before we were able to achieve that level of sell-through, house ads or co-branded ads made sense from a product or campaign awareness perspective but never actually achieved any sort of high volume of click activity.

We are however very much exploring new ways to programmatically convert articles into content ads that will be used to retarget readers and desirable audiences across the web and multiple social platforms.  There is no doubt that the use of content ads to drive awareness of various editorial programs on Forbes will play a significant role in many of our biggest programs, especially for our BrandVoice partners.”

Tyler Fitch, VP, Performance Sales, Social Gaming Network

“Yes, I absolutely think House Ads are important in driving revenue.

As a gaming/social publisher, I push traffic from low value properties to high value games.  I can keep track of LTV of each user that clicks on the house ad.  If I know the LTV, I can attribute an eCPM per each house ad and optimize for performance.  This extra demand source can help stop the race to the bottom by exchanges or help create new revenue streams in countries where ad revenue is scarce.

House Ads play an important role in launching mobile games too.  A good launch will get each game higher in the app store which opens it up acquiring more users organically.  Coordinating user acquisition buys while simultaneously seeding users from house ads can give you best chance of your game taking off in the app store.”

Tim Messier, Enterprise Platforms, AutoTrader Group

“Most publishers struggle with the notion of attributing a specific value to house ads, and for good reason. Just as with paid campaigns, the backend metrics that determine the efficiency and value of a house campaign are a function of the actions and behaviors that the campaign is looking to drive. The fuzziness of publisher attribution models, particularly when there isn’t a discrete value event (ex. registration, email inquiry, etc.), makes it tempting to view the value a house impression in terms of the opportunity cost that comes with serving it.

House ads are still a valuable component of a broader merchandising strategy, and come with the same benefits as paid display campaigns: ease of deployment, targeting (including data-informed targeting), optimization opportunities and measurability. It remains a balancing act for publishers though, as house ads shouldn’t be looked at as methods of controlling clutter, or constraining the supply of inventory.”

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