Digital advertising used to be a relatively simple affair.
Advertisers paid publishers to place ads directly on their sites, and the creative was hand-coded directly on web pages. That wasn’t particularly efficient – or scalable.
Now, thanks largely to ad servers, it’s a much more dynamic, more effective process. There is also a great deal more targeting, tailoring and visibility.
Because the digital ad technology landscape is so complex, it’s worth reviewing the basics to understand just what core elements of the ad tech stack do. Here’s an introduction to the all-important ad server, which has fundamentally changed how advertisers and publishers interact.
We created the short video below to help digital ad stakeholders understand the benefits of ad servers, what they do, and how they can help solve some of the industry’s ongoing challenges. Watch it now:
What Ad Servers Do and Why Publishers & Advertisers Use Them
As the video explains, there are two main types of ad servers:
First-Party Ad Server
Publishers own and operate these ad servers. These enable publishers to serve ads dynamically, calling the correct creative for standardized ad space on web pages.
Over time, publishers have added more page and user data to requests to the first-party ad server. That additional data allows publishers to sell and manage targeted ad campaigns to multiple advertisers.
Third-Party Ad Server
Owned by advertisers, these servers allow the same ad to run through multiple publishers and properties. That gives advertisers greater control and flexibility over creative throughout the life of a campaign.
Third-party ad servers also give advertisers access to first-hand, real-time performance.
Improving Ad Serving: 3 Issues
Still, as the video explains, there remain three key issues challenging publishers and advertisers:
1. Discrepancy & Verification:
The number of impressions and clicks can vary depending upon whether the interaction is reported by a first- or third-party server.
There are more ads across channels and formats (mobile, apps, video) than publishers can sell, as consumer behavior continues to change the digital landscape.
Because publishers’ page data can’t always identify users by age and gender, more precision is necessary to ensure the right ads are delivered.
Ad servers can’t solve these problems by themselves. As this LUMAscape shows, the display advertising landscape is full of ad tech vendors trying to fill the holes.
Both publishers and advertisers want to get the right ad to the right person – in the right context. To achieve that, both publishers and advertisers must work to optimize their ad servers within their larger ad tech environments.