Ad network – what is it?
Ad networks serve as intermediaries connecting advertisers with publishers or websites that offer valuable ad impressions. Their primary role is to gather ad inventory from publishers and align it with the advertising needs of advertisers.
What exactly is an ad network?
At its core, an ad network acts as an intermediary, serving as an online advertising platform that facilitates the exchange of ad space between publishers and advertisers.
In the early days of the internet, ad networks primarily helped publishers sell their surplus ad space. In today’s digital landscape, where much of our activities occur online, ad networks have become a fundamental component of the programmatic advertising ecosystem.
How ad networks work?
Ad networks play a dual role, benefitting both publishers and advertisers. Publishers utilize ad networks to locate buyers for their unsold ad space, while advertisers rely on ad networks to identify suitable inventory that aligns with their budget and target audience.
Here’s how it works:
- Publishers integrate the ad network(s) of their choice into their platforms.
- Advertisers set up their advertising campaigns through their preferred ad network(s).
- Advertisers configure various campaign parameters, including budget, targeting criteria, and frequency caps.
- Based on the advertiser’s specified criteria, the ad network determines the most suitable publisher for their ad and facilitates the connection between the two parties.
Types of advertising networks
Thankfully, advertisers and publishers have a range of network options to choose from, allowing them to select the one that best aligns with their requirements. Your target audience, the type of ads you plan to use, and your budget will all influence your choice of network.
There are four primary types of advertising networks to consider, and understanding what each type offers can simplify the decision-making process:
- Horizontal advertising network – a horizontal ad network provides access to a vast inventory, offering advertisers extensive reach and scalability. These networks are appealing due to their ability to reach a wide audience and provide numerous targeting opportunities.
- Premium advertising network – premium ad networks cater to publishers who demand a premium price in exchange for exclusive access to their inventory. These networks exclusively collaborate with top-tier publishers and are highly selective in choosing their partners.
- Vertical advertising network – vertical ad networks connect niche advertisers with relevant publishers, allowing unconventional advertisers to reach their unique audiences more effectively. This type of ad network offers transparency regarding ad placements, ensuring advertisers know where their ads will be displayed.
- Specialized advertising network – similar to vertical ad networks, specialized networks focus on specific types of inventory. For instance, they may exclusively handle video or mobile ad formats, offering tailored solutions for specific advertising needs.
Advantages and benefits of ad networks
If you’re an app developer, you should know that ad network presents a substantial monetization opportunity for you as a publisher.
Alternatively, if you’re an aspiring advertiser, an ad network can assist you in effectively showcasing your promotions to the right audience. Ad networks serve as invaluable intermediaries, facilitating revenue generation for publishers and aiding advertisers in crafting lucrative campaigns.
Furthermore, with the projected market volume expected to reach $641 billion by 2026, capitalizing on the monetization of your apps becomes an obvious choice.
The integration of ad networks into your digital marketing strategy brings forth a multitude of advantages. Foremost among these is the ability to monetize your app, allowing you to claim a slice of the vast global marketing landscape.
For both publishers and advertisers, these benefits are not only compelling but also come with the added advantage of generating income from your app.
Ad networks benefit for publishers
- Quick income – ad networks offer a rapid route to income. Once your website is up and running, and you’ve joined one or more ad networks, you can start earning money immediately. Ad networks provide a convenient solution for publishers seeking quick revenue to cover operational expenses. Even if your operational costs are minimal or not a concern, ad networks enable stress-free and on-the-fly profit generation.
- Broadens audience reach – to thrive in the expanding app market, it’s essential to monetize a diverse audience segment, and this is precisely what ad networks facilitate. Advertisers often specify the types of audience and traffic they want to target. For instance, if an advertiser aims to reach American visitors, a site focused on a domestic audience is ideal. However, this approach limits your income potential when targeting the global market. Ad networks complement instantly sold premium ads, making them accessible to a broader range of visitors, thereby expanding your app’s monetization potential.
- Attracts a variety of advertisers – ad networks deliver high-quality and precisely targeted ads because they aim for optimal performance on your site. By offering a wide array of ad creatives to your visitors, you can potentially increase both “views and clicks,” boosting your income prospects.
Ad networks benefits for advertisers
- Expands audience and publisher pool – advertisers often place restrictions on the types of audience and traffic they wish to target, which can limit their impressions. Collaborating with an ad network allows advertisers to expand their pool of publisher partners, consequently broadening their reach to a larger audience, all within a predetermined budget.
- Enhances return on Investment (ROI) – ad networks employ precise matching techniques, enabling advertisers to select the most profitable deals available to them. This strategic approach results in an increased return on investment for advertisers.
Ad networks within the programmatic advertising ecosystem
The programmatic advertising ecosystem involves the automated buying and selling of digital advertising space, connecting advertisers with the ad exchange and the valuable impressions they seek.
It’s important to distinguish between these two concepts: ad networks and the programmatic ecosystem. Ad networks are manually managed and require human intervention. Typically, a manager is responsible for approving ad creatives and configuring campaigns.
As programmatic advertising continues to advance, there is potential for ad networks to become obsolete in the future. Although ad networks fall under the programmatic direct category rather than the programmatic advertising ecosystem, they are often mistakenly conflated with other components of the ecosystem.
Ad network vs. ad exchange
An ad exchange is a digital marketplace for programmatic advertising. Ad networks manage digital inventory from numerous publishers or purchase bulk ad impressions from the ad exchange and then resell them to advertisers.
On the other hand, ad exchanges are the more transparent and efficient means of buying and selling digital advertising. The ad exchange uses algorithms, permitting publishers to get the best prices for their impressions.
At the same time, advertisers can reach target audiences at the right moment and with the appropriate context, in place of negotiating buys directly or manually with publishers.
In short, exchanges allow advertisers to buy ads across a spectrum of mobile apps, mobile websites, and regular websites at once.
Ad network vs. DSP vs. SSP
DSPs and SSPs are parts of the programmatic ecosystem and employ real-time bidding technology. Most ad networks are still completely manual and would need a DSP to participate in RTB and programmatic media buying.
Demand-side platforms allow advertisers to manage their campaigns across multiple RTB networks (instead of just one) and allow advertisers to buy and manage video mobile and search ad inventory.
DSPs connect with supply-side platforms to enable programmatic advertising, while SSPs help publishers list their available impressions/advertising inventory.
An ad network, on the flip side, is an intermediary and an aggregate that relies on human intervention instead of machine learning and algorithms.
Ad network vs. ad server
The best way to recognize the difference between an ad network and an ad server is to understand that an ad network uses/employs an ad server.
An ad server is a technology that allows advertisers to place their ads on specific sites or apps and also enables publishers to manage these ads properly. An ad network employs this technology (ad server) to manage ads and available publisher inventory.
How to choose the right ad network?
There are so many ad networks to choose from that it can feel overwhelming. However, if you consider the following four things before your search begins, choosing the right ad network can actually feel kind of painless.
How extensive is the network? Whether your site is niche or global in reach, consider this question. The more advertisers that can bid for your inventory, the greater the potential to sell those valuable impressions at higher prices.
Think about it. An extensive publisher inventory indicates an ad network with more opportunities to match ads to websites appropriately. This is known as CTR or contextual targeting which is the process that matches ads to relevant sites in the Display Network based on linguistic elements like topics and keywords.
In addition to offering better contextual targeting, a larger pool of advertisers also means that a greater number of geographical locations are represented. Ultimately, this reduces the chances that you’ll be left with unsold inventory — and that goes for both publishers and advertisers.
Does it offer a variety of formats? Even if you are unsure which formats you may need — look for an ad network that offers a variety of ways to display ads. Then you can test and adapt over time.
When it comes to ad performance — one size does not fit all. An ad network that offers multiple ad formats (rich media, video rolls, interstitials, etc.) optimizes the monetizing potential of both the publisher and the creative.
Can it compete with RTB or programmatic advertising? Since the programmatic ecosystem challenges legacy ad networks’ long-term viability, publishers must understand the value of automatic ad buying and selling, particularly before considering an ad network and committing to one.
Programmatic buying and real-time bidding help publishers earn more money. Legacy ad networks definitely cannot keep up. Therefore, it’s more than essential to understand what technologies an ad network offers or can integrate with before deciding to commit to one.
Popular ad networks for publishers and advertisers
Now that you know what to look for in an ad network, here are 10 of the most popular ad networks:
Popular ad networks for publishers
Ad tech is growing, and for publishers that want to use it to their advantage and generate more income, here are some prominent ad networks for you:
- Google AdSense
- Facebook Ads
- Amazon Associates
- Sovrn (formerly VigLink)
- Sovrn Commerce (formerly Skimlinks)
Popular ad networks for advertisers
If you have high-quality ads that entice, these are some of the most popular ad networks for advertisers:
- Google Ads
- Facebook Ads
- Instagram Ads (part of Facebook Ads)
- Apple Search Ads
- Spotify Ads
- Facebook Ads
- TikTok Ads
- Twitter Ads
- LinkedIn Ads
- Pinterest Ads
- Snapchat Ads
- YouTube Ads (part of Google Ads)
- Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads)
- Amazon Advertising
- TikTok Ads
- Pinterest Ads
- Reddit Advertising
- Quora Ads
- Yelp Advertising
- Verizon Media Native Ads (formerly Yahoo Gemini)
Key information about the term “ad networks” to remember
Unfortunately, ad networks are not evolving as fast as the programmatic advertising ecosystem. Because of that, there are important things to remember if and when you are considering an ad network:
- An ad network is an aggregator of publisher inventory and a mediator between publishers and advertisers.
- There are four major types of ad networks: horizontal, premium, specialized, and vertical.
- While not as viable as programmatic, there are still major benefits for both publishers and advertisers that employ ad networks.
- Ad networks still require human intervention as opposed to the programmatic ecosystem, which relies on machine learning and algorithms.
- Before committing to an ad network, it’s important to consider how extensive it is, the variety of formats it offers, and if it can compete with RTB.
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