What Is An Ad Network And How Does It Work?

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Publishers depend on ad networks to generate income, whereas advertisers rely on the platforms that a publisher makes available to generate more leads and sales. It’s a two-way system where both parties essentially help each other in the end. When it comes to connecting the two, one of the best options is to look at an ad network. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what an ad network is, how it works, and the different types that exist. This information can help both advertisers and publishers choose the options that are ideal for them. 

What Is An Ad Network?

Online advertising is still a relatively new activity compared to the old ways of promoting a business. When online advertising became available in 1994, it also brought along the introduction of ad networks. The very first ad was in the form of a banner that appeared on a technology website. It’s also where online advertising started to take off – and why a need for ad networks developed. 

When you approach an ad network, understand that it is a platform that will become a broker in the transaction. The platform essentially helps to connect advertisers to publishers. Advertisers want to pay money to get their ads displayed on the ad space inventory that publishers can offer. 

It’s important to note that an ad network can refer to many types of platforms. It’s sometimes viewed as an umbrella term, but fundamentally, it should give advertisers the opportunity to connect with publishers who have websites relevant to their industry. 

Here’s a quick view on the basics of how an ad network tend to work:

  • The advertiser provides criteria on what type of websites they want an ad to be displayed. They also specify the type of ad that they want to run. 
  • The platform then collects details of all open inventory spots that are available from the publishers in its network. It filters these open spots based on the criteria that the advertiser has already set. 
  • When a user opens the publisher’s website, the ad network looks for the best ad to be placed in open spots. 

Note that this is not the process for every ad network, as some would allow buyers and sellers to communicate directly and negotiate. This type of deal often leads to a fixed advert showing on the publisher’s website for a specified period of time. 

How Do Ad Networks Benefit Advertisers And Publishers?

Ad networks are useful for both publishers and advertisers. Each of these parties can expect specific benefits to occur when they decide to join up with an ad network. Let’s consider the potential benefits for each:

Advertisers: As an advertiser, it’s crucial to ensure your ads reach the right people in every campaign that you set up. Finding quality websites that drive real traffic back to you is critical, but it can be troublesome when you manually have to go through a variety of websites and contact each owner to find out if they would work with you. With an ad network, you gain access to verified traffic that is driven back to you from publishers. The publishers usually need to meet certain minimum requirements before the ad networks accept them, so you are guaranteed the quality of each publisher that is part of the network. With an ad network, your campaigns are easy to scale, and you’re able to tap into a larger range of websites to show your ads on. 

Publishers: When you join an ad network as a publisher, you can use this membership as a way to generate passive income from your blog or website. Trying to sell your ad spaces that are available on your website manually to businesses can take a long time and can often result in impressions that are wasted. With an ad network, you have a greater chance of filling every slot on your website, which makes the most out of each impression your website generates. 

The Different Types Of Ad Networks

Not all ad networks are exactly the same. Some specialize in certain types of ads, while others use the fundamentals of an ad network and make certain changes to it. This is why you should learn about the different types of ad networks you may come across.

Affiliate Ad Network: These networks essentially give publishers the ability to run banner ads on their website or share a unique URL with their audience. The advertiser comes to the affiliate ad network to create a campaign. They have full control over how the publisher is paid. In most cases, the advertiser covers the fees charged by the affiliate ad network to set up the campaign and generate impressions, clicks, and leads. 

Performance Ad Network: A network option that is very similar to an affiliate ad network. As a publisher, you’ll usually be paid based on the performance of the ads you place on your website, often through either a CPA or a CPC model. In some cases, the advertiser may choose to use a revenue share model instead. 

Vertical Ad Networks: These ad networks focus on specific industries or topics. It’s a good idea to join one of these if you have a website that has a very specific niche that it focuses on. Advertisers are sometimes more included to place higher bids with a vertical ad network. 

Specialized Ad Network: An ad network that focuses on providing advertisers access to a specific inventory category. One example is Admob, which is Google’s ad network for displaying mobile ads. These ads are incorporated into mobile apps and games that developers can publish on the Google Play Store. 

Premium Ad Network: This type of network generally works with only the best publishers that are well-known on the internet. They can usually generate a more significant amount of traffic, but they also cost the advertiser more. 

Sometimes, an ad network may combine different categories in order to create unique offerings for its clients. For example, an ad network may focus specifically on mobile ads, but also only serve ads to publishers that have mobile websites or apps that fall within a very specific category. 

Evolution Of Ad Networks

Over the past few years, ad networks have evolved significantly. They have become much more advanced, and the technologies used allow for better tracking of user activity, engagement, and behavior. This gives advertisers an edge, as it allows for more accurate targeting of their audience. At the same time, the advancements in these technologies increase the likelihood that an ad will be clicked on the publisher’s website. 

At this point, there is also significant competition between companies that classify themselves as an ad network and those that are AdTech vendors. AdTech vendors generally use supply-side and demand-side platforms that can communicate through a central network and increase the precision of targeting. We can see companies that are in the AdTech business implement certain features that are commonly found in ad networks at the moment. Simultaneously, a vice-versa effect can also be seen, as there is an increasing number of ad networks that are working on implementing an in-house supply-side and demand-side system. 

With these changes, it becomes difficult to understand the difference between an AdTech vendor and an ad network. This also makes it harder for both publishers and advertisers to know which type of agency or company they should trust when it comes to promoting products or generating income. 

Programmatic Direct

A relatively new addition to the world of advertising is programmatic direct. This particular option makes the process of connecting an advertiser’s ad to a publisher’s website easier to understand, with fewer processes involved, and it turns out to be a more affordable solution too. 

The main idea behind direct programmatic solutions is to create a type of self-serving platform. This reduces the need for a middleman that has to constantly initiate negotiations between advertisers and publishers or systems that need to bid on properties and choose a winner in a matter of seconds. 

Instead, this self-serving platform rather allows publishers to provide details of the ad spots they have open in their inventory. The advertisers, or buyers, are then able to browse these ad spots and choose which ones they want their ads to fill. It’s a more intuitive way of serving an ad to a publisher’s website, and it significantly reduces the number of steps that should be taken before the ad is displayed. Furthermore, it also reduces the need for advertisers to cover high costs related to their expenditure at an agency or network. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to advertise your business or make money by displaying ads on your website, it’s important to use an ad network if you want to simplify the process. These networks are where publishers and advertisers come together, so they eliminate the need to manually search for a partner that you could work with. Understanding the fundamentals of ad networks can help you get a clear view of the benefits that they can offer you. 

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