Publishers are busy. They’re preparing for the death of the third-party cookie, growing their subscriber bases, and consistently producing high-quality content.
They don’t have time to deal with sub-par ad server platforms that fail to deliver revenue and can’t integrate with their overall operations.
That’s why it’s so important to choose the right ad server — one that can help seamlessly run ad campaigns, measure performance, and drive engagement across channels. This way, publishers can scale their digital advertising efforts and continue growing their businesses, even as the landscape continues to evolve and user behaviors change.
With that in mind, here’s what publishers need to know about how to choose the right ad server platform.
What are ad servers?
An ad server automates the ad selling and distributing process. While publishers and advertisers can strike deals directly, an ad serving software takes the manual labor out of this process, allowing many advertisers to bid on available ad slots. Ad server platforms are also helpful for running multichannel advertising campaigns, programmatic campaigns, and real-time bidding, stirring up competition between advertisers and generating revenue for publishers.
How does it actually work? On a basic level, a publisher identifies its ad placement, such as a display ad on an article page. When a reader visits that page, the ad server receives a request to fill that ad. It then chooses the right ad that matches the user’s interests and relevant page content. The user then sees the ad and the ad server tracks their engagement, including ad impressions, clicks, and conversions.
More specifically, ad servers are commonly split into two categories:
- First-party ad servers. These are used by publishers to manage ad placement and serve ads that are targeted to their built-in audiences.
- Third-party ad servers. These are used by advertisers to track their ad campaigns and collect audience data, which they can then use to optimize their strategies.
Ad servers can also be divided into these two different types:
- Self-hosted ad servers. These are maintained by publishers themselves. While they offer more hands-on control, they also come with more responsibilities, like installing and updating the ad tech.
- Hosted ad servers. These are hosted by an outside company or provider. They update automatically and are often easy to use. They may also come with customized support features and real-time monitoring to ensure publishers’ campaigns are well-managed.
Publishers can choose the best type of online advertising software for their needs based on their available resources and business goals. A growing publisher, for example, might opt for a hosted ad server so they can tap into a ready-made network of ad partners and access the latest ad serving technologies without having to run the program themselves. There’s an ad management tool for everyone looking to monetize efficiently and successfully!
What’s the difference between an ad server and an ad network?
They may sound similar, in name, but ad servers and ad networks couldn’t be more different.
In the simplest of terms, an ad network is a third-party platform where publishers can sell space to advertisers. According to Wikipedia:
“An online advertising network or ad network is a company that connects advertisers to websites that want to host advertisements. The key function of an ad network is an aggregation of ad supply from publishers and matching it with advertiser’s demand.”
An ad server, on the other hand, is a technology that enables publishers to display advertisements on their websites. It literally “serves” ads on websites. There are also technologies that integrate with ad servers, like Jeeng AdServe, that enable publishers to display ads in their other digital properties like email and push notifications.
How can ad servers help publishers overcome today’s challenges?
Publishers are facing a slew of challenges as they recover from lost revenue during the pandemic, prepare for a cookieless world, and contend with more platforms and data channels than ever before.
Specifically, let’s look at the biggest obstacles facing publishers today and how an ad server can help with digital advertising.
According to DoubleVerify, 73% of publishers say they spend too much time processing data from tech vendors like DSPs and SSPs; 80% say this hurts their bottom line and prevents them from optimizing ad delivery.
Publishers can also struggle with organizing and integrating siloed data if they run campaigns across channels without a comprehensive ad server platform. In fact, publishers noted the “lack of consistent media quality measurement methodologies between advertiser clients” as a major issue in managing digital campaign data.
How ad servers can help: Run multichannel campaigns from one platform, so you can combine data from email, website, and push notification ads, gaining a comprehensive view of your audience and ad performance.
Just like advertisers are concerned about brand safety, publishers have to make sure all messaging is properly vetted through their ad networks. Otherwise, both publishers and advertisers risk losing money and frustrating readers by failing to maintain data security and stay relevant to your target audience.
How ad servers can help: Properly vet ad partners and tap into a ready-made network of advertisers who are eager to reach your engaged audiences with relevant, personalized messaging.
Ad targeting across the web is about to experience a major shift as Google plans to disable third-party cookies from its Chrome browsers. As a result, publishers will need to rework how they track and target audiences. One of the best ways to do this is to prioritize first-party data — such as the email address — since it’s collected directly from the reader and can be used to segment audiences based on interests and preferences.
How ad servers can help: Collect and activate first-party data on monetization channels like email and mobile apps. So you can make the most of your subscriber lists and stay ahead of the competition in a cookieless world.
What happens when publishers don’t have enough ads to fill their stock? Well, they lose revenue and risk messing up their content with blank ad slots. That’s why publishers need to have a backfill strategy. So ad campaigns never run empty and content never goes unmonetized.
How ad servers can help: Integrate with Google Ad Manager (GAM) to backfill unsold inventory and manage website and email ads from the same spot.
What should publishers look for in an ad serving platform?
With these key points in mind, here are the biggest components that publishers should look for in an ad server:
- Ease of use for managing multichannel campaigns
- Integration with GAM to enable backfill and ad uniformity
- Comprehensive analytics across campaigns
- Targeting driven by first-party-data
- Support for a range of ad formats, including display, text, and native ads
Jeeng AdServe was built specifically with publishers in mind, helping them launch and manage automated and personalized messaging across platforms. In fact, you can manage online ad campaigns from one familiar system and backfill inventory with personalized ads so you never miss an opportunity to drive revenue—a dream come true for both publishers and advertisers.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Integrated with Google Ad Manager (GAM), the ad serving platform Jeeng AdServe vastly improves delivery of ads across Insider’s popular, diverse and fast-growing daily email newsletter offering.
Formerly Business Insider, Insider has a global audience of 275 million and more than 20 newsletters offering readers updates on world news and trends. While these newsletters are widely popular, the company’s ad operations team had a dynamic and ongoing challenge: logistically managing content and schedules for so many newsletters while ensuring that the subscribers get a seamless ad experience.
To cope with the complexity of its newsletter ad trafficking, Insider turned to Jeeng’s ad serving capabilities.
Thanks to Jeeng AdServe’s direct sync with GAM, it can take ad creatives seamlessly from publishers’ existing inventory. With the addition of a single line of code into Insider’s email templates, Jeeng automatically inserts ads into each newsletter, saving the advertising team time and effort.
In addition, Jeeng allows for a more automated and personalized ad experience by using geo-targeting. Another advantage of Jeeng’s ad server is its robust tracking metrics. Jeeng expands upon the standard metrics, which generally only show click-thru rates; Jeeng measures logo performance and can compare day-to-day performance more easily.
”Insider’s sponsored newsletter program continues to thrive, in part due to the smooth ad insertion process enabled by Jeeng. Ad inventory of two of its newsletters has been sold out for the rest of the year. Jeeng cuts our turnaround time from more than 2 hours to just 30 minutes”, says Insider Ad Operations Manager Sarina Knapp.
How to start using a third-party ad server
First, decide whether you want to recruit a hosted ad server provided by a company or if you’re going to be fiercely independent with a self-hosted ad server.
There are pluses and minuses to each kind of ad serving technology. Most notably, the self-hosted ad server gives you full customization and total control over the specifications and data collection. However, it is more labor-intensive, requiring you to constantly update the technicalities. Who has time (and resources) for that? If you do, more power to you! But most publishers don’t…
A hosted ad server is simple to use and implement. All the specifications are handled automatically and the ad serving company generally offers great customer support. There are a number of ad servers out there, though Google Ad Manager takes the cake as the most popular one.
No matter which route you take, any hosted ad servers will boost productivity, support your ad serving process and help you manage online ad campaigns for optimal results.
Ready to upgrade your ad server? Book a demo today.