The Two Types of Web Display Ads: Premium vs Remnant

by John Ramey on April 30, 2009

This is part 1 of a 4 post series about direct sales and web display ads. Many website owners are benefiting from or considering selling ads on their sites directly. But direct sales can be confusing and it isn’t right for everyone. The posts:

  1. The Two Types of Web Display Ads: Premium vs Remnant
  2. Why Direct Sales Is A Great Way To Sell Ads
  3. How isocket Powers Premium Ad Sales
  4. Should I Try Direct Ad Sales On My Website?


There are two types of inventory when it comes to website display (i.e. banner) ads – premium and remnant. Understanding the difference and how it applies to you is crucial to making the most out of your advertising revenue and strategy.

From a technical view, there is no difference between a premium ad and a remnant ad. They are the same shape and size, the advertisement (called the “creative”) could look identical, they both count as an impression every time they are seen, and they both link to the advertiser’s website. Mike Nolet, formerly of Right Media, has an excellent series of posts with his opinion on this subject.

The basic difference between premium and remnant is how the ad was bought and sold. Premium ads are sold by a seller/publisher directly to a buyer/advertiser. Or in other words, an advertiser bought the exact ad they wanted from the exact website they wanted.


Pretend you own a brick and mortar store… you do some local marketing about your products, a customer walks in, you chat about what they are looking for, they pick the product they want, they pay you, and they leave. It’s a 1 to 1, face to face relationship. That’s direct sales and premium ad inventory.

Remnant ads are sold by someone else, where your ad inventory was pooled together with thousands or millions of other websites and sold to a buyer you’ve never met. Remnant ads are “leftovers”. Almost all ad networks put remnant ads on your website. The biggest network AdSense (created by our own Gokul Rajaram) is a perfect example.

Let’s say only 30% of a website’s available ad inventory has been purchased directly by an advertiser. The other 70% of inventory could a) show no ads at all or b) show ads from an ad network. The thinking is you may as well show remnant ads, because some money is better than no money, right?

The problem (as you’ll see in the next posts) is that even though remnant ads are easy to use and usually make up the numerical majority of a website’s ad impressions, they are usually not your only/best option.

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