Bonus Media

Also known as “value adds,” this term is relevant to sites that sell their display ad inventory directly to advertisers. Generally, bonus media is a consideration only for line items priced on a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) basis.

It is relatively common for advertisers or agencies to request that publishers include bonus media wherever possible in order to make the most competitive proposal possible when being considered for a campaign. These are basically $0 CPM (i.e., free) ad impressions that a publisher includes with paid media in order to maximize the appeal of the overall proposal.

In some cases, a proposal template will have a column marked “Bonus Media” or “Value Add.” In this case, the appropriate value is either Yes or No, depending on whether or not there is a cost associated with the line item (this column is somewhat duplicative, since any line item with a CPM of $0 would be bonus media).

Here’s an example of how a bonus media line item would look on an ad proposal (highlighted):

Example of Bonus Media on Ad Proposal

There are pros and cons to including bonus media on an ad proposal, regardless of whether the advertiser or agency explicitly asks for it to be included. Giving away something of value (ad impressions) at zero cost obviously results in a direct loss of revenue. But in some instances, the inclusion of bonus media may make the overall proposal–including paid line items–seem more appealing.


Some advertisers or agencies focus on the overall effective CPM of a campaign when evaluating the competitiveness of a publisher. If this is the case, a strategic use of bonus media can help to make your proposal seem like a great value to the advertiser.

Let’s use as an example here. Note that this site’s design includes a 728×90 leaderboard at the very bottom of most pages:

RT BTF Leader

There’s not much value to this ad unit. It’s far below the fold, meaning that only a small percentage of visitors will actually see it. Click rates are probably in the neighborhood of 0.01% to 0.03%, meaning that for every 10,000 impressions it might generate a couple of clicks. The effective RPM is probably about $0.25. (And even that might be generous.)

But this ad unit could be effectively used as bonus media to make a proposal more appealing. Consider a proposal to an advertiser that looks like this:

Proposal A

The overall effective CPM here is $11. If RottenTomatoes was to include some some bonus media in this low value leaderboard ad unit, the proposal might look like this:

Proposal B

The bottom line cost of $22,000 has remained the same, but the effective CPM paid by the advertiser has decreased significantly to just $7.33. That makes this proposal look like a much better value, and may increase the likelihood of the site being selected for the campaign. The site may give up the $250 or so that it could earn by serving AdSense ads in this position. But if that helps them land a $22,000 spend, that sacrifice would be very worthwhile.

Of course, the actual value of this bonus media may not be meaningful; if this placement gets a click rate of about 0.02%, the line item above might generate only 200 clicks or so. But the effect on the effective CPM number is certainly meaningful.

If an advertiser or agency is pressuring you to include some bonus media in a proposal, it’s probably worth doing. While there is a direct loss of revenue, this will generally be more than offset by the increased likelihood of being selected for a campaign.

Ideally, this can be accomplished through low-value line items (such as below-the-fold leaderboards) that will result in minimal lost revenue for the publisher.