What is Ad Trafficking?

Reading time: 4 minutes

In the world of digital marketing, there are many concepts and terms that you will hear that  you may not fully understand the meaning.  This article sets out to demystify the term ad trafficking and provide some concrete examples of what to do and not to do while running a digital display campaign[7].

In researching this topic, we came across a definition of the term that breaks down the definition of the term ad trafficking into its simplest form. Smarty ad’s definition states “Ad trafficking refers to the end of the process of creating an online ad campaign.”  Basically ad trafficking is managing the execution and optimization of a digital ad campaign and involves securing ad inventory[8][3], taking the client’s creative[9] and inserting the ad and then monitoring the delivery of the ad throughout the campaign to ensure that campaign impression[4] goals are met.

Many different individuals may have their hands in the ad trafficking process, but in an effort to simplify things, it is best to look at the role of a singular ad trafficking manager so that you can understand what it is that they do exactly.  An ad trafficking manager selects the most suitable channels and placements where the campaign will be most effective in reaching the target market and achieving the clients’ campaign goals.  They will constantly monitor the performance[5] of the campaign and make recommendations to the client if they feel that changes need to be made in order[10] to optimize the campaign.  

Ad trafficking vs. display trafficking 

When discussing the concept of ad trafficking, the question will undoubtedly come up “Well, what is the difference between ad trafficking and display trafficking? Aren’t they the same thing?”  And the answer is that display trafficking is a component of ad trafficking.  Rather than focusing on impression delivery, display trafficking monitors the conversions that take place during a digital ad campaign.

According to straightnorth.com, “Display ad tracking is a critical element of the campaign, as it enables advertisers to determine how many conversions the campaign is producing and calculate ROI. If tracking is incomplete or improperly set up, advertisers may grossly overestimate or underestimate the effectiveness of their display ads.”

Some of the ways in which ad trafficking managers are able to gauge performance of a particular campaign or a specific element of a campaign are the following:

CPC[6] Tracking — Cost per click can tell advertisers just how many people are clicking on your display ad in order to get more information and what is the cost associated with that call to action.

Event Tracking — Event tracking helps advertisers to monitor how visitors are interacting with their site, in particular how many times they have performed a particular call to action like clicking on an image. 

Goal Tracking — Goal tracking refers to monitoring the number of times a particular campaign call to action was completed, like filling out a form or signing up for emails.  

How to successfully do ad trafficking 

The most important thing to keep in mind when trafficking a campaign in order to ensure its success is to monitor its progress throughout the campaign and make suggestions to the client on ways in which you better optimize a campaign.  Flexibility and adaptability to changing conditions is key when it comes to digital ad campaign success.  Analyzing the performance data mid campaign and recommending an alternate course of action is something that traffic managers need to do with every single campaign. Smartyads.com advises this to ad trafficking managers: “After choosing a suitable period you can measure performance in bids, wins, impressions, clicks, ad spend, eCPM[1], CTR[2], and win rate. So, for instance, if one of your ad campaigns returns particularly good results, you can terminate the other less effective ones.” 

Do’s and don’ts of ad trafficking 

Now that you have a clearer picture of what ad trafficking is, here are some tried and true recommendations for you:


  1. Schedule your ads to run evenly and keep track of any fluctuations in traffic in order to ensure timely delivery.
  2. Directly after the launch and throughout the campaign, be sure to take screenshots of the campaign and forward them over to the client so that they can see what their ad looks like within the digital ad environment.
  3. Be very precise when entering the orders into the ad server and ensure that each line item[11] matches the IO exactly.  If any changes need to be made, inform the client and obtain a changeorder in writing from the client prior to making any change.
  4. Be sure to check available inventory before booking any campaigns and be sure to secure the inventory as soon as possible.
  1. Following the launch,  24-48 hours after, compare 3rd party system against deliverable data with 1st party ad server. 


  1. Never, ever set your campaigns to run by default.  When working with automated media-buying platforms, never choose settings by default, find out how they can affect your campaign outcomes, or consult the professional. 
  2. Don’t set things on autopilot. You need to go back and check performance constantly throughout the campaigns and communicate any under delivery to the client prior to the campaign end so that you can change course if necessary.
  3. Don’t submit your client’s creative prior to ensure that it is the proper size, the graphic is clear and not pixelated or misshapen and the colors are displaying correctly.
  4. Pay attention to the frequency[12] with which you are showing ads and limit the number of impressions that an ad is served per day.  You do not want to cause annoyance and irritation by being too repetitive with your ads.
  5. Never, ever deviate from an IO without the client’s approval and in some cases written permission.  Communicate any suggested changes to the client, but do not act without first receiving their approval.
1. Effective Cost Per Thousand Impression [eCPM] ( eCPM ) eCPM is known as the effective cost per thousand impressions and is a metric used by publishers to determine the actual rate they’re earning from their ad inventory. eCPM is calculated by taking your (total ad earnings/impressions) x 1000.
2. Click-Through-Rate [CTR] ( CTR ) CTR relates to how many times users clicked on an ad divided by the number of times that ad was displayed to users.
3. ad inventory. Ad Inventory refers to the number of ad impressions available for sale on a publisher’s website or mobile app. In other words, these are the commodities available for the advertisers to buy on the website.
4. impression. Impression is when a user views an ad on a page or when an ad is displayed on a webpage.
5. performance. A form of advertising in which the purchaser pays only when there are measurable results.

Recent Articles

Related Articles

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stay connected

Don't miss out on the latest news, events and special announcements.

By submitting this form, you agree that you've read and accept our Privacy Policy as well as to receive communications from HeaderBidding.com. You may unsubscribe at any time.