Comcast and Starbucks Testing Home Page Takeover Plays at Major Newspapers

Home page takeover ads on newspaper sites are becoming increasingly commonplace. In recent months, The New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Houston Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and Seattle Times are among names that have sold their above-the-fold ad units to one brand for either 12-hours-plus or a whole day at a time.

On Thursday, NYTimes.com ran a Starbucks’ home page takeover that included an interstitial, a one-minute video statically placed like a billboard right under the newspaper’s masthead, and three small displays. About the only potential element left out of the mix was a branded re-skin/wallpaper, which appears to be one of the last pieces of home page real estate that most newspaper sites are keeping in their back pockets.

That’s why it’s been interesting to see Comcast recently getting a branded re-skin in its home page takeover for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The southeastern daily has been selling a re-skin-billboard-display combo to brands like Comcast, Cadillac, Georgia Power, and grocery chain Publix. Those firms have paid about $20,000 per day for the package, said BJ Sweeney, manager of digital sales for the newspaper’s site, AJC.com. Without specifying results for an individual client, Sweeney said that home page packages involving the re-skin have been outperforming single home page ads by as much as three times for click-throughs.

Comcast on Wednesday ran its second test in 15 days on the package deal to promote its 4G mobile broadband product to tech-savvy Atlantans. The initial test ran on March 30 and was the telecommunication brand’s first attempt at using a re-skin on a newspaper site. A strong click-through rate encouraged Comcast to order another day even though retail results from the initial test weren’t in, said Larry Schweber, a VP of marketing communications for the telecom’s Cable Southern Division.

While Schweber couldn’t know for certain how much the re-skin’s presence influenced click-throughs without running an A/B split test, he said his gut told him the tactic worked. “I think it absolutely played a part in the good click-throughs that we saw,” he said.

Schweber suggested that if the forthcoming sales numbers look compelling, Comcast may try the re-skin-billboard-display combo in other markets around the country. In a few weeks, ClickZ will check back in with him to see if orders in the Atlanta market spiked enough for a national rollout.

In the meantime, here’s how the ads looked on AJC.com.

You can follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.

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