Direct Deals 101: The Ultimate Guide to Private Marketplaces [2024]

February 16, 2024 | by Aleesha Jacob

Direct Deals Explained

Direct deals or direct ad sales create a direct relationship between publishers and advertisers, eliminating the mediators like programmatic ad agencies, ad networks, SSPs, or DSPs. The only way for publishers to make money before the advent of ad technology was through direct deals. Once programmatic media buying came up, publishers were able to reach a global market and sell their inventory for the highest prices possible.

Furthermore, with programmatic auctions, small publishers don’t get left behind when it comes to making money off their booming websites. Direct deals are still relevant up to this day since they are more personal compared to programmatic auctions and can also be automated via Google Ad Manager & other ad technology platforms.

Direct Deals Types

Direct deals come in two main flavors: Preferred Deals and Programmatic Guaranteed. Both types cater to the needs of desktop and app publishers, promising better returns for their ad inventory by marrying the precision of programmatic buying with the exclusivity of direct sales.

Preferred Deals: First Dibs on Premium Inventory

Preferred Deals allow advertisers to get first look at a publisher’s inventory before it hits the open market. These non-guaranteed deals set a fixed CPM rate, enabling advertisers to buy inventory at a predetermined price. If the advertiser passes, the inventory then moves to the open auction.

Desktop and App Publishers: Why Preferred Deals Shine

For both desktop and app publishers, Preferred Deals offer the advantage of selling high-quality inventory at premium prices without the obligation to sell if the demand doesn’t meet expectations. This flexibility is particularly beneficial in environments where audience engagement varies significantly, such as niche apps or specialized desktop websites. Publishers can maximize their yield by offering top-tier inventory to select advertisers at a premium, ensuring that their best ad spaces are monetized effectively.

Programmatic Guaranteed: The Assurance of Volume and Price

Programmatic Guaranteed deals take the certainty a step further by securing a fixed amount of inventory at a fixed CPM rate, ensuring that both the volume and the price are agreed upon in advance. This deal type guarantees the sale for the publisher and the purchase for the advertiser, making it a win-win.

Desktop and App Publishers: The Guarantee of Better Returns

For publishers, Programmatic Guaranteed deals promise a reliable revenue stream, enabling better financial planning and inventory management. This is particularly appealing for both desktop and app publishers, as it ensures that their premium inventory is fully monetized at agreed-upon rates. App publishers, dealing with fluctuating user engagement and varying ad viewability, can find stability in Programmatic Guaranteed deals. Similarly, desktop publishers benefit from the assurance of selling their inventory, especially for high-quality content that attracts a specific audience.

Enhanced Returns Across Platforms

Both Preferred Deals and Programmatic Guaranteed offer distinct advantages that suit the diverse needs of desktop and app publishers. By providing more control over pricing and inventory allocation, these programmatic direct deals enable publishers to secure better returns on their ad inventory. Advertisers, on their part, enjoy access to premium inventory with greater buying efficiency and predictability.

  • Preferred Deals cater to publishers and advertisers looking for flexibility and premium pricing without the commitment, ideal for high-demand inventory where publishers want to capitalize on market interest.
  • Programmatic Guaranteed suits those seeking stability and assurance in ad buying and selling, offering guaranteed volume and revenue, which is especially valuable for publishers with consistent, high-quality traffic.

Both deal types present lucrative opportunities for publishers to optimize their ad inventory across desktop and app platforms. These programmatic approaches not only streamline the ad buying and selling process but also ensure that publishers can maximize their ad revenue with more predictable and efficient transactions.

Understanding Benchmark CPM rates

Direct Deals 101: The Ultimate Guide to Private Marketplaces [2024] MonitizeMore
This visual demonstrates the varying costs associated with different types of display advertising across mobile and desktop platforms.


Whether you’re navigating the mobile seas or the desktop universe, understanding the benchmark CPM rates is crucial for crafting deals that sparkle brighter than a diamond in a sea of coal.

The Lowdown on IAB Display CPM Rates: Mobile Mastery

When it comes to mobile display advertising, don’t let the small screen fool you; the impact and the prices can be mighty. For standard banners on mobile, you’re looking at a playful dance around the $4 to $5 mark. It’s like the base cocktail price at your favorite bar — reliable and always in demand. But, darling, if you want to elevate your game and dive into the world of video ads on mobile, prepare to pop the champagne with rates swirling between $7 and $10. It’s the premium experience your audience craves, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good video moment on their handheld device?

Desktop Display CPM Rates: Bigger Screen, Bigger Dreams

Transitioning to the grand stage of desktop advertising, the stakes are high, and so are the potential rates. For those standard banners that grace the screens of desktop users, the benchmark CPM rates hover around a sultry $10 to $20. Yes, you heard that right. It’s like stepping into a Tier 1 nightclub where the prices reflect the premium experience and the elite crowd. The desktop realm is not for the faint of heart, but for those ready to make a splash with their ad dollars and reach audiences in all their full-screen glory.

Crafting Deals That Dazzle: The Art of Negotiation

Knowing the benchmark rates is just the first step in your journey to programmatic prosperity. The real magic happens when you tailor those rates to fit the unique needs of your campaign and the specific allure of the sites you’re targeting. Remember, the world of direct deals is like an exquisite bazaar — everything is negotiable. Your goal is to emerge with a treasure trove of ad placements that shine brighter than your competitors, all while keeping your purse strings comfortably tight.

Tips for Negotiation Nirvana:

  • Know Your Value: Come armed with data that showcases your audience’s uniqueness and engagement. It’s like wearing your best outfit to a negotiation — it sets the tone.
  • Flexibility is Your Friend: Be open to adjusting your rates for longer commitments or higher volume buys. It’s the give-and-take dance of the ad world.
  • Relationships Reign Supreme: Build genuine connections with publishers. A good relationship is like a vintage wine; it only gets better with time and can lead to sweeter deals.

Focus on viewable CPMs

Viewable CPMs or vCPMs for direct deals are more than a metric; they’re a mantra for modern digital advertising. By focusing on viewability, you ensure your ads don’t just exist in the digital ether but captivate and engage. It’s a strategy that demands attention, rewards creativity, and drives performance. Here’s to ads that don’t just show up but shine.

Mastering the Art of Viewable CPMs in Direct Deals

Direct deals, with their bespoke nature and tailored audiences, offer a unique canvas on which to paint your vCPM strategy. Here’s how to make every stroke count:

Negotiate with Precision

When it comes to direct deals, everything is up for negotiation, including your vCPM rates. Approach these discussions with a blend of data-driven confidence and creative flair. Showcase your understanding of their audience and how your content not only aligns with but enhances their user experience. It’s about creating a win-win scenario where your ads are viewed by an engaged audience, ensuring higher performance and better outcomes for both parties.

Tailor Your Content for Maximum Viewability

Content is king, but context is queen, and she wears the pants. Design your ads with viewability in mind. This means considering size, format, and placement to ensure maximum exposure. Engage with publishers to understand the best-performing ad units and positions on their site. It’s akin to choosing the perfect outfit for an event; you want to stand out for all the right reasons.

Leverage Technology and Tools

In the quest for viewability, technology is your ally. Utilize ad verification tools and analytics platforms to monitor viewability rates in real-time. These insights allow you to adjust your strategies on the fly, ensuring your ads aren’t just seen but remembered. Think of these tools as your backstage crew, essential for putting on a show-stopping performance.

Forge Strong Partnerships

Last but certainly not least, the strength of your relationships with publishers can make or break your vCPM strategy. A strong partnership based on transparency and mutual goals sets the stage for successful campaigns. It’s about more than just transactions; it’s about collaboration, sharing insights, and working together to optimize viewability and performance.

CPM Optimization for Direct Deals Success

Many publishers aim to 3X their open auction Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM) rates for direct advertising deals. Yet, advertisers with substantial, guaranteed budgets can negotiate these rates down. The mentioned multiples represent the net revenue for publishers, highlighting the potential cost savings for advertisers when bypassing networks. Utilizing a network, DSP (Demand Side Platform), and SSP (Supply Side Platform) can consume up to 55% of advertising spend due to fees. Opting for direct deals not only reduces these costs but also enhances the publisher’s net gain.

We’ve seen that some publishers are open to accepting direct deals with CPM rates as low as $2-3 for display ads, while premium sites with high-quality content and strong traffic demand up to $10 CPM to guarantee ad volume. The decision to pursue direct deals is influenced by several factors, including the desire for guaranteed ad volume, specific targeting requirements, and the potential to eliminate ad network fees.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that publishers might offer lower-quality traffic to networks, reserving their best inventory for direct deals. This prioritization ensures that direct campaigns have access to the most valuable and effective ad placements.

Benefits that come with Direct Deals

Creative Control

With direct deals, you have total control over evaluating campaign creatives beforehand. In this way, you can ensure your ads are contextually relevant and do not negatively impact your site’s user experience. Due to the lack of networks and exchanges matching the audience and automating the whole procedure, the creative review process can take up a considerable amount of time. The result is successful direct advertising campaigns that your audience loves with a better engagement rate than before.

More Ad Revenue

The main reason why publishers may prefer direct deals over other options is the ad revenue. Ad exchanges or ad networks are basically the mediators that match brands/advertisers to ad inventory simplifying the whole programmatic media buying game. In return for this service, the company takes a cut from advertisers’ ad spend as well as from publishers’ revenue.

After a few transparency-related discrepancies between big names in the ad tech industry, many companies began sharing the exact amount of shares they charge from both parties. The share percentage varies from company to company based on their policies. Removing these middlemen parties should visibly spike the ad revenue. Even the biggest media publishers reserve only a small portion of their advertising inventory (premium quality) for direct deals.

This lets publishers charge more for their ad inventory from advertisers. All they need to do is maintain a well-organized ad stack, spotlight their premium ad inventory and sell them right away.

Spam-free ads

Using ads full of spammy redirects will only make your audience bounce, block ads, or both – ultimately harming your revenue and rankings. Programmatic facilitates this to a great extent. The demand sources (ad networks or exchanges) typically engage in arbitrage by reselling inventory more than once. In this case, an ad impression is rendered on your website after a lengthy chain of redirects is completed. This unleashes several openings for nefarious actors to inject all sorts of malware into your website. Direct deals with advertisers remarkably bring down the malware risk enabling you to serve risk-free ads on your site.

Getting Started with Direct Ad Selling

You’ll need the following to get started with Direct deals:

Media Kits

A media kit is a link that provides all the details and insights based on your audience & traffic. Your Media Kit should be easily accessible to the public, designed to be presentable, and contain factual information like the metrics explaining the potential reach of your site. The more data you share regarding your audience, the better credibility, trust, and transparency you’ll build with advertisers.

Here’s an example of the Forbes Media Kit: Direct Deals 101: The Ultimate Guide to Private Marketplaces [2024] MonitizeMore

Rate Cards and Spec Sheets

Your rate card will list the prices of all ad placements that you offer in a single document or on your website. You can list down all advertising placements and ad units that you wish to display for direct deals. Advertisers interested in your inventory can tie their budget to your price expectations by viewing your rate card.

In addition to showing your prices, it also shows all the kinds of ad types you offer on your website. You can keep the rate card simple & straightforward. Here’s an example:

Direct Deals 101: The Ultimate Guide to Private Marketplaces [2024] MonitizeMore

Spec sheets are the ‘terms & conditions’ guides that include all technical data & policy details. In spec sheets, you can list the ad size, ad type & ad format specifications which can also include rich-media requirements, third-party ad tag acceptability, etc.

How to find the right advertisers?

It’s fair to say that lots of traffic and niche-based audiences make your website attractive to advertisers. But how will advertisers discover you & how can you cherry-pick the relevant advertisers?

Here are some tips you can use to find the best advertisers for direct deals:

  • Advertisers who already bid on your inventory and would be a good fit for your direct ad campaigns should be sought out. Once you’ve created the list, reach out to these advertisers & pitch.
  •  Reach out to advertisers that appear on your competitor’s sites through ad networks/exchanges. Don’t forget to follow up with them and offer promotional deals.
  • Try using services like MediaRadar, AdMall, etc. if you have the budget to do the outreach brands.

What to do with the remnant ad inventory?

For the rest of your advertising inventory, you’ve got header bidding, open bidding (exchange bidding), & private marketplaces. Direct deals are solely for premium or exclusive parts of your ad inventory. If you’re new to this, make sure you carefully split up your inventory between programmatic or direct deals.

99% of publishers depend on header bidding to get ad networks/exchanges to fill the remaining of their ad inventories. Also, for unfilled ad inventory, there’s AdSense rerender. So, if direct deals don’t work, programmatic deals have your back. Likewise, programmatic advertising offers similar or maybe even better performance on your ads with sophisticated audience matching & ad quality measures.

Get way more than the highest paying ads in the industry once you partner with MonetizeMore.

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