The title, “What is an ad server” might seem too basic for anyone that is already familiar with ad operations. But there IS confusion about this! Since we’ve been asked this question repeatedly, we figured it was time to write a 101 article :)
What is an ad server? Here’s a simple definition.
An ad server is a web server that stores online marketing advertisements and delivers them to digital supports like websites, mobile sites or mobile apps. The ad server’s interface allows users to manage their advertisements. That includes putting the creatives online, setting the delivery parameters and targeting, serving ads, as well as monitoring and optimizing online campaigns. Different types of banners (text, image, video, Flash, HTML5, etc.) can be supported.
Ad server refers to the technology, so there is a prerequisite you’ll need before starting to use one: advertisers willing to advertise on your site or app. You’ll also need the creatives they’d like to display. Remember, even if an ad server can help build advanced banners (which, by the way, Smart AdServer does pretty well), it still can’t make them from scratch.
Do I need an ad server?
Ad servers are useful to both the sell side (those selling inventory) and the buy side (those buying inventory).
Why are ad servers useful for publishers and ad networks?
Many digital publishers have turned towards advertising-based financial models to monetize their sites. One way for publishers to boost revenue is by directly selling inventory to advertisers or agencies interested in their audience.
If you’re working with an automatic advertising platform like Google AdSense, or you’re partnering with an ad network that sells your ad inventory for you, you may not have any advertisers to sell directly to. If that’s the case, you won’t manage inventory sales yourself and you don’t need an ad server.
However, if you sell inventory directly to advertisers, then you’ll probably need an ad server to manage all your advertising campaigns. And if you’re an ad network selling on a publisher’s behalf, you will definitely need an ad server to manage all those campaigns!
Why are ad servers useful for advertisers and media agencies?
If you’re an advertiser with a pre-built media plan and you’re willing to advertise your banners to sell-side actors, you can use an ad server.
If you’re a media agency, you could use an ad server to serve banners on behalf of your advertisers. If you want more control and insight into campaigns, an ad server will allow you to easily track the clicks, impressions, and conversions of the banners you deliver.