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USA Today Offers New Page One Ad Units

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Gannett’s USA Today is taking four new front-page ad units to market, hoping to appeal to skittish advertisers by offering more flexibility than the three-inch strips currently available on its section fronts.

The new units include pyramid- and staircase-shaped formats and are roughly the same size as the strips. They’re also priced the same, at $97,500 Monday-Thursday and $119,400 Friday.

Brett Wilson, senior vp, advertising, USA Today, said the new shapes would permit advertisers more creativity in a tough selling environment.

“The strip format is always a challenge to creative directors,” he said. “It’s really more a way to loosen up our restraints for more inviting creative, whether it’s an advertiser that’s been with us 20 years or new customers.”

With ads on a downslide, newspapers have grown more aggressive about selling ads on their front pages. In an extreme case, the Los Angeles Times recently drew criticism for selling a front-page ad that looked like a news column. USA Today emphasized that its new units would look distinct from editorial content.

“You’d have to be really reaching to think these look like editorial,” Wilson said of USA Today’s new units, adding that he believes the newspaper will be the first national paper to use them.