Ad Server vs. Ad Network

online advertising In an online world with increased reliance on digital technologies, the terms "ad server" and "ad network" are frequently heard. However, not many people know the key differences between these two terms. There is a fair bit of confusion. This write-up is an attempt to briefly explain as to what ad server and ad network exactly are so that one will easily be able to differentiate between the two terms.

Ad Server

Ad server refers to the technology that enables advertisers to put their ads on specific websites and enable publishers to manage the ads appropriately. The following are some of the primary features of a typical ad server:
  • Ad servers are categorized into two varieties: local servers and remote servers. When the publisher installs and runs the ad serving software on their own servers, that is a local ad server. On the other hand, a remote ad server means a third-party vendor hosts and operates off-site ad servers for multiple publishers and advertisers
  • Publishers sign into their ad server account, define the ad placements on their site and get ad tags for those placements
  • An ad server displays ads in the form of images, textual content, videos, and audios
  • It keeps track of numerous aspects of interaction between the user and the ad such as the total number of clicks and views, the page location, the user’s location, browser and so on
  • Using the ad metrics, the ad server prepares analytical reports, which assist the advertisers in improving and tailoring their ads

Ad Network

The term “ad network” and “ad exchange” is broader than “ad server”, in the sense that the former speaks of a company that does more than just ad serving. An ad network uses an ad server for its core technology infrastructure, which displays and manages ads of multiple publishers and sellers. However, they also perform non-technical tasks such as buying and selling advertising directly. Below are a few salient aspects of ad networks:
  • Ad network uses economy of scaling by combines ad inventories from multiple publishers and make them available to buying or bidding by multiple advertisers and media buying agencies
  • Each publisher of a given ad network is given an adserver’s ad tag to put into their website to display ads from that specific ad network
  • Each publisher and advertiser is provided a unique login into its ad server to view reports and manages their ad campaigns and ad placements
  • Ad networks use different business and pricing models. Some advertisers need to pay for every instance of display of their ad, regardless of whether or not the users have taken further action. That model is CPM or pay per view/impression. In the same way, you also have networks where the payment is made only when users engage with ads, through clicks, registration, and buying, etc.
  • The most powerful ad networks empower advertisers with actionable analytics and insights to help convert prospective clients into actual customers. An increased ROI means retaining existing clients while gaining new clients
We can conclude by stating that ad networks are mediators connecting advertising entities and publishers. Ad servers can be considered as a critical and core tool utilized by the ad networks and ad exchanges. With services rendered by ad networks and ad servers, companies can avoid the burden of having additional staff to monitor the ads, their various metrics, and the many tasks related to advertising.


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