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What Is Ad Inventory and How Publishers Sell It

Everything Advertisers Need to Know About Ad Inventory

The world of programmatic advertising might be difficult to navigate at first. There are so many things you need to pay attention to and master. Things like supply-side platforms, demand-side platforms, real-time bidding, programmatic direct, and many others. All of this may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re a beginner at online advertising. But it’s something you need to go through if you want to expose your brand to a bigger audience.

Given that customers spend 155 minutes on the internet, the best way to reach them is on websites, social media platforms, and video channels. Marketers and advertisers around the world have realized this. Indeed, spending on programmatic digital ads in the U.S. increased by 10.4% in 2020. The last year was marked by lockdowns and social distancing, so this growth comes as no surprise.

With the increase in the popularity of programmatic advertising, it’s time you understand this technology that bridges the gap between your products or services and consumers. You should especially pay attention to ad inventory.

If you’re a publisher, you probably have some ad space to offer. On the other hand, if you’re an advertiser, you’re probably after an ad space to promote your company. Either way, you should learn as much as you can about ad inventories.

In this article, we’ll go over the basics of ad inventory and help you learn how you can sell it.

Let’s start with the answer to the question, “What is ad inventory?”

What Is Ad Inventory?

Ad inventory refers to the amount of ad space a publisher has to put on sale and which advertisers can buy. Basically, it is the number of advertisements you can display on one publisher website. The term initially originated from print media, however, it has now come to encompass ad space available on the internet.

Furthermore, publishers can offer website, mobile, app, or video ad inventory up for sale. They often sell inventory directly to advertisers, especially high-value placements such as a website’s home page. The online ad space is usually valued based on the site traffic or ad views that a particular publisher can bring to an advertiser.

For instance, let’s say that the Washington Post attracts an average of 1,000 visits to their home page per week. They offer two display ads for advertisers, which means that their potential ad inventories receive 2,000 impressions a week.

Now that we know the ad inventory meaning, we can move on. As you’re in the online marketing and advertising worlds, there’s a high chance you’ve heard about two types of ad inventory: premium and remnant. Let’s check them out.

Premium Advertising Inventory and Remnant Advertising Inventory

While advertisers are searching for affordable and valuable advertising space on the internet, they’ll mostly come across two kinds of ad space: premium and remnant advertising inventory. Both of these offer some value to advertisers. But which of them is the best? Let’s take a look.

Premium Advertising Inventory

Firstly, premium ad inventory is an advertising space that is high-quality and more expensive than other space offered by publishers. This digital ad inventory is located above-the-fold, on a popular section of the website, or is more valuable because it gets more exposure.

Moreover, advertisers consider premium ad inventory the ideal space for their ads because they know they’ll reach a bigger audience. However, the high price and fierce competition for the space often make it impossible to claim this inventory.

Historically, premium digital advertising inventory was sold by the publisher’s sales team. But with the developments in technology, it is now sold programmatically more often, typically on demand-side platforms.

The biggest advantage of this ad space is the visibility. Since it’s impossible to miss it once you access a particular website, the ad reaches a lot of people. Visibility and exposure influence consumers by getting their attention and encouraging them to have a look at the content displayed on the ad.
Now, what is unsold ad inventory?

Remnant Advertising Inventory

Then, remnant or unsold ad inventory is an advertising space that a publisher has been unable to sell via programmatic deals. This space is then offered at a lower cost. To ensure it is sold, advertisers usually put it on sale via ad networks or real-time bidding ad exchanges.

Publishers do all they can to get rid of unused ad inventory, including decreasing the price of the left ad space. Although remnant advertising inventory is unpredictable, advertisers are still after it. It is a low-cost option, but that doesn’t mean that it is less valuable than premium ad inventory.

Namely, two benefits of remnant ad inventory are cost and exposure. It is offered at a drastically discounted price, but it still provides an opportunity for advertisers to get exposure on the internet. The lower price also means that small and medium-sized businesses have a chance to reach customers who would normally be out of their reach.

You see, both programmatic ad inventories have their advantages. As long as you get exposure, you can be one step closer to achieving your marketing objectives.

But how do publishers usually sell ad inventory? They usually rely on four popular options!

Ways to Sell Ad Inventory

Regardless of how you work with publishers, i.e. buyers, you can get the most out of your inventory by selling it in a variety of different ways:

  1. Direct sales: Your brand can have an in-house team that is in charge of directly negotiating the price of your ad spaces with advertisers.
  2. Programmatic guaranteed: Another option for selling ad inventory is programmatic guaranteed. According to this deal, the buyer directly buys ad space from you. They agree to purchase a fixed number of impressions, while the publisher promises to deliver the exact amount of impressions.
  3. Real-time bidding: This technology enables advertisers to participate in real-time biddings at the same time. Publishers offer their ad inventory at a minimum price, while advertisers have to bid for that inventory. The highest bid wins in the end.
  4. Private marketplaces: Then, ad inventory can be sold in a real-time bidding environment where that inventory is only available to select advertisers or buyers. The publisher sets price and access restrictions, and invites buyers to bid.

In today’s programmatic advertising ecosystem, the most popular option is real-time bidding. It enables numerous advertisers to bid at the same time while also increasing the price of a particular ad inventory.