An ad server is a software platform that manages the distribution and optimisation of digital advertisements to potential customers. They also collect data that allows for an ad’s performance to be reviewed.
Why would I need this?
Ad servers allow marketers to streamline all of their ad data into one place, helping them to better manage the scope of their digital marketing efforts. They also contribute to creating more effective campaigns for publishers by using the collected data to personalise ads for users, accounting for things like geolocation, interests and behaviours to ensure accurate targeting.
How does it work?
By using real-time decision making based on an ad’s insights, a publisher’s website or mobile app can send a request to an ad server and it will use the data to generate appropriate attribution tags and display the right ad in the right slot to the right user.
Ad servers also rank ads in a system called ‘daisy chaining’ or ‘waterfall’ in which the servers fill remnant slots on publisher sites, and the ads move up or down the chain in a priority sequence until a publisher purchases the impressions. This is an alternate process to ‘header bidding’ whereby publishers bid for the impression on an ad server in a programmatic auction.
Ad servers are used for two main reasons by two different parties – first party being the publisher side and third party being the advertiser side. Both share the same technical capabilities but are used differently by the respective parties and at different points of an advert’s journey. Publisher’s primarily rely on ad servers as management tools while advertisers use them to generate insights based on the data and house ads before serving them to publishers.