What is an Insertion Order?

Reading time: 5 minutes

Once upon a time, advertising deals between two parties were carried out manually. Programmatic ad buying and selling didn’t exist and publishers didn’t have standard terms and procedures.

As we’ve gone down the path of website monetization via display ad placement, we developed newer and faster methods to maintain these advertising agreements. However, despite everything becoming digitalized, we can still rely on an insertion order[4] to bring back the human side of making a deal.

What Exactly Is an Insertion Order?

An insertion order (IO) is a legal agreement between an advertiser[2] and a publisher[5]. The agreement contains all the important details of the ad inventory[6][3] to support the ad proposal process. Essentially, it guarantees that the advertiser can run their ads using the publisher’s ad inventory.

Insertion orders are typically the last step involved in the inventory selling process for both the advertiser and the publisher, or the agency in question.

Additionally, this legal document dictates how an advertising campaign[7] is meant to be carried out. Therefore, an insertion order will typically include the following information:

  • The name of the campaign
  • The start and end date of the campaign
  • The name and details of both the publisher and advertiser 
  • The ad unit[8] dimensions and placement locations
  • The target audience involved
  • The number of impressions expected to be served
  • The pricing structure
  • The colors, positioning, and sizing of the ads
  • The total cost of running the ads, including any discounts
  • Any reporting requirements from both sides

Insertion orders are kind of the old way of doing things. However, these documents are still viable and necessary in the digital world because they give both publishers and advertisers a bit more control over programmatic buying[1] and selling. 

What Are the Benefits of Using an Insertion Order?

As with any legally planned-out document, insertion orders come with a handful of benefits. Those benefits include:

Assurance and Control

IOs set the parameters to be followed in writing before the deal is finished. Therefore, both the advertiser and publisher can enter the deal knowing exactly what to expect down to every last detail. This helps both parties remain in control of their business and avoid any future disagreements or conflicts.

They Hold All the Details

IOs are meant to outline every single detail related to the programmatic proposal. Because of this, both parties can access the IO document to reflect upon these details any time an issue or uncertainty arises. Any detail that has been written into the IO and signed off on is legally binding, which contributes to the control gained by enlisting an insertion order in the first place.

They’re Customizable

In addition to containing all the details regarding the campaign, IOs are 100% customizable. That means both parties can negotiate and create their own set of rules however they see fit. Customization is incredibly important because it dictates how the details are understood.

For example, maybe you want to introduce a dynamic pricing structure that includes monetized incentives. You can customize the details of those incentives and how they’ll be executed. 

They Align Both Parties’ Goals

Insertion orders provide a unique setting where publishers and advertisers can work together. Instead of leaving the buying and selling process up to computer automation, IOs open up a dialogue for teamwork.

By opening up a dialogue between the two parties, the advertisers and publishers can express their goals, find an effective way to execute said goals, and tailor their strategy. 

They Protect from Fraud

IOs help to significantly reduce the chances of ad fraud. The details of the deal are elicited manually, which means there’s less of a chance for bot traffic to enter the chat, so to speak. 

What Are the Drawbacks of Using an Insertion Order?

Though effective, insertion orders aren’t necessarily perfect. They come with their own set of drawbacks, which include:

Slowing Down the Process

Because it is an entirely manual process, insertion orders take brainpower and time to create and negotiate. One party writes up the IO, the other reviews it, and then they discuss every last detail until the document is signed. All of this human involvement slows down the process. 

Negotiation Issues

The IO won’t get signed unless everyone agrees on everything. No deal will ever truly be perfect for both parties, especially if the advertisers and publishers involved have different expectations and refuse to compromise. 

Automation Is Taking Over

Programmatic deals are the go-to solution because they’re automated, which makes them much easier and in some cases, safer. It also eliminates time wasted on negotiations. 

IOs are also limiting in terms of who you can sell your ads to. The automated process exposes your ads to hundreds of potential publishers, while insertion orders require advertisers to seek out publishers and then go through the process of detailing and negotiating the document.

Insertion Order Best Practices

Insertion orders can be drafted by the publishers, advertisers, or agencies involved. If either party is working under an agency, then it will be up to the agency to take care of the IO. 

Otherwise, the publishers and advertisers must come together to prepare the document following these best practices:

  • Know your inventory. This way, you can specify a range of the impressions you receive based on your historical data rather than attempting to “oversell.”
  • Get organized. Both parties should have a clear idea (and list) of what they want to gain or need to gain from the proposed ad campaign. 
  • Be realistic. IOs are a two-sided agreement. Both parties should have realistic expectations and be willing to compromise when it comes to negotiations. 
  • Review the IO thoroughly. Before signing off on all the details, both parties must take the time to review the document to avoid conflict. Once signed, the IO is legally binding proof of the ad proposal terms, and both parties must adhere to its stipulations.

Drafting an insertion order may sound like a frivolous, unnecessary step to take in this digital age of programmatic ad buying. However, IOs can be incredibly helpful in contributing to the overall success of your ad campaign. 

1. programmatic buying. Programmatic buying is the process of executing transparent media planning and buying using automation. In most cases, programmatic buying is fueled by the use of advanced audience data through digital platforms such as exchanges, trading desks and demand-side platforms (DSPs), which helps create operational efficiency for both the buy and sell sides. Agencies use programmatic on behalf of their advertiser clients to increase marketing efficiency, helping them get more out of media budgets.
2. advertiser. The company paying for the advertisement.
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. order. Order represents an agreement between a buyer and publisher regarding an advertising campaign. The order specificities details regarding the campaign and can include multiple line items.
5. publisher. Web publishing is the process of publishing original content on the Internet. The process includes building and uploading websites, updating the associated webpages, and posting content to these webpages online. Web publishing is also known as online publishing.

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