Brand & Marketing

An Introduction to Ad Server

An overview

An ad server is a technology platform that manages and delivers online advertising to websites, mobile apps, and other digital channels. It’s a piece of software that allows advertisers and publishers to track, serve, and manage the display of advertisements.

Ad serving involves a series of steps, including:

  1. Advertiser uploads creatives (images, videos, etc.) to the ad server.
  2. Advertiser sets up targeting criteria such as geographic location, time of day, and user demographics.
  3. Ad server matches the targeting criteria to the user’s browser, mobile device, or app.
  4. Ad server selects the most appropriate creative based on the targeting criteria and user data.
  5. Ad server delivers the creative to the user’s browser, mobile device, or app.
  6. Ad server tracks the performance of the ad, including impressions, clicks, and conversions.
  7. Advertiser can view the performance data and adjust the targeting or creative as needed.
  8. Ad serving is a critical part of online advertising, as it allows advertisers to deliver targeted ads to the right audience at the right time, and publishers to monetise their content by displaying relevant ads.

The cost to set it up

The cost to set up an ad server or ad serving platform can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the system, the number of users, and the features required.

For small to medium-sized businesses, there are ad serving platforms that offer affordable pricing plans starting at around $50 to $100 per month. These plans typically include basic features such as ad rotation, targeting, and tracking.

For larger organisations or those with more complex needs, custom ad serving solutions may be required. The cost for such solutions can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of the system and the level of customisation required.

It’s important to note that the cost of setting up an ad server is just one component of the overall cost of running an advertising campaign. Additional costs can include the cost of the ad creatives themselves, as well as the cost of media buying and other related expenses.
An Ad Server can distribute ads to various channels

An ad server can typically distribute ads to a variety of channels, including:

  1. Websites: Ad servers can distribute ads to websites through display ads, pop-ups, and other ad formats.
  2. Mobile apps: Ad servers can deliver ads to mobile apps through in-app ads, interstitial ads, and other mobile ad formats.
  3. Social media: Ad servers can distribute ads to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn through the platform’s advertising API.
  4. Video platforms: Ad servers can distribute ads to video platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Twitch through pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll video ads.
  5. Email: Ad servers can distribute ads to email campaigns by embedding ad tags or creatives within email templates.
  6. Search engines: Ad servers can distribute ads to search engines such as Google and Bing through search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns.
  7. Connected TV (CTV): Ad servers can distribute ads to CTV through programmatic advertising, which allows for targeted and real-time bidding on ad inventory across multiple CTV platforms.

Overall, an ad server provides a centralised platform for managing and distributing ads across multiple channels, allowing advertisers to target and reach their desired audience more effectively.

You can only do basic ad creation in Ad Serving platform

An ad server typically provides basic ad creation tools, but they are not as advanced as dedicated graphic design software. Advertisers can use ad server tools to create simple ads, such as text ads or display ads with basic graphics or images. However, for more complex and visually appealing ads, advertisers typically use dedicated graphic design software to create ad banners before uploading them to the ad server.

It’s important to note that ad banners need to be predesigned before uploading them to the ad server. Ad servers do not typically offer design services or tools to create ad banners from scratch. Advertisers need to create ad banners in standard sizes and formats and upload them to the ad server. Ad servers usually provide guidelines and specifications for creating ad banners, including file types, sizes, and other technical requirements, to ensure that ads are displayed correctly across different devices and channels.

Businesses benefit most from Ad Serving

An ad server can be suitable for a wide range of businesses that rely on online advertising to reach their target audience. Here are some examples of businesses that may find an ad server to be particularly beneficial:

Publishers: Publishers can use an ad server to manage and optimise the display of ads on their website or app, ensuring that they are delivering the most relevant ads to their audience and maximising their ad revenue.

Advertisers: Advertisers can use an ad server to create and distribute targeted ads across multiple channels, allowing them to reach their desired audience more effectively and track the performance of their ad campaigns.

Ad agencies: Ad agencies can use an ad server to manage multiple client campaigns and optimise their ad spend, as well as to provide detailed reports and analytics to clients.

E-commerce businesses: E-commerce businesses can use an ad server to create and distribute targeted ads that drive traffic and sales to their website or app.

App developers: App developers can use an ad server to monetize their app by displaying relevant ads to their users, as well as to track the performance of their ad campaigns and optimize their ad revenue.

Overall, any business that relies on online advertising can benefit from using an ad server to manage and optimise their ad campaigns.

It typically require a developer to set it up

A developer is typically required to set up an ad server. Ad servers are complex software systems that require specialised technical knowledge to set up, configure, and customise. A developer with experience in web development, database management, and server administration can help set up an ad server and ensure that it is running smoothly.

In addition to setting up the ad server itself, a developer can also help integrate the ad server with other systems, such as the publisher’s website or the advertiser’s ad platform, and ensure that the ad server is properly tracking and reporting on ad performance.

While some ad server platforms offer user-friendly interfaces that allow non-technical users to manage and create ad campaigns, developers may still be needed to handle more complex tasks, such as customising ad server features, troubleshooting technical issues, and implementing advanced ad targeting and tracking capabilities.

What happens if you terminate your Ad serving service?

If you terminate your ad server service, your ads will no longer be served through that platform. The specific impact on your ads will depend on the details of your ad server service agreement and the channels where your ads were being served. Here are some possible scenarios:

  1. Ads are removed from all channels: If your ad server was the only platform through which your ads were being served, terminating the service will result in the removal of all your ads from all channels.
  2. Ads continue to run on other channels: If you were using multiple ad serving platforms or channels, your ads may continue to run on those channels even after terminating your ad server service.
  3. Ad performance data is lost: If you were using your ad server to track ad performance and optimize your campaigns, terminating the service will result in the loss of that data.
  4. Ad campaigns need to be recreated: If you were using the ad server to manage and track your campaigns, you will need to recreate those campaigns in a new platform or manually manage them across different channels.

It’s important to review your ad server service agreement and understand the impact of terminating the service before making any decisions. Additionally, you should have a plan in place to transition your ads to a new platform or manage them manually if necessary.

The advantage of using an Ad Serving platform

Using an ad server has several advantages over managing ads individually across different channels:

  1. Centralised Management: Ad servers provide a centralised platform for managing ads across multiple channels. This makes it easier to create, target, and optimise campaigns.
  2. Efficiency: With an ad server, you can create a single ad campaign and deliver it to multiple channels simultaneously. This saves time and reduces the risk of errors or inconsistencies that can occur when managing ads individually.
  3. Tracking and Analytics: Ad servers offer robust tracking and analytics capabilities that allow you to measure the performance of your ads across different channels. This data can be used to optimise campaigns and improve ROI.
  4. Targeting: Ad servers allow you to target specific audiences based on a variety of factors such as demographics, location, and behaviour. This improves the effectiveness of your campaigns and helps you reach the right people at the right time.
  5. Cost Savings: By using an ad server, you can consolidate your advertising spend and negotiate better rates with publishers. This can result in significant cost savings over managing ads individually across different channels.

Top 10 Ad Server suppliers

  • Google Ad Manager (formerly DoubleClick for Publishers)
  • Adzerk
  • AppNexus
  • Epom Ad Server
  • Revive Adserver
  • OpenX
  • Adform
  • Smart AdServer
  • AdButler
  • Admixer

Overall, using an ad server provides a more efficient, cost-effective, and streamlined approach to managing your advertising campaigns across multiple channels.

By Ethan

To many, a business is a lifetime commitment. It's easy to start one yet difficult to make it successful. Attitude, skills, experiences and dedication help hone the craft along the way, but it's often the great vision and resilience to remain focused wins the game. Read more about me here