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Ad Serving Platforms: How To Choose The Best One

Ad Serving Platforms: How To Choose The Best OneVictoria Kensington
Tech Insights
Ad Serving Platforms: How To Choose The Best One

According to the latest industry statistics, digital advertising spending worldwide is expected to rise from 521.02 billion USD in 2021 to 876 billion USD by 2026. These impressive numbers suggest a revolution is taking place — conventional advertising methods are no longer accepted by most consumers, so businesses have started to adapt. Thus, digital ad serving platforms have become more popular in recent years, changing the way people manage and view ads. And it’s not surprising! Businesses earn an average of $2 per $1 spent on Google Ads. So, if you want to join the lit of those who managed to ditch old-school, inefficient ads, read the article and learn more about ad serving platforms.


What Is an Ad Serving Platform?

An Ad Serving Platform represents a cornerstone in the intricate realm of digital advertising, functioning as a pivotal mechanism for the streamlined delivery and management of advertisements across diverse online channels. This technological cornerstone is designed to serve as the conduit between advertisers and publishers, orchestrating the precise exhibition of targeted ads to designated audiences.


At its core, an ad serving platform executes a multifaceted role that encompasses ad storage, rotation, and tracking. By efficiently storing and organizing creatives, these platforms empower advertisers to tailor campaigns with precision, ensuring that users are exposed to a diverse range of content without overwhelming them. Prominent examples of ad serving platforms include Google Ad Manager, Adform, and Smart AdServer, each distinguished by their robust tool sets for ad management, targeting, and performance analytics.


The fundamental purpose of an ad server platform is to provide advertisers and publishers with granular control over their digital ad campaigns. This includes specifying the target audience, regulating the frequency of ad displays, and monitoring crucial metrics such as impressions and clicks. Additionally, these platforms play a crucial role in optimizing ad campaigns through advanced algorithms that analyze user behavior, demographics, and contextual relevance.

It's essential to distinguish ad serving platforms from programmatic ad platforms. While ad server platforms concentrate on the management and delivery of digital advertisements, programmatic ad platforms encompass a broader spectrum of automated technologies for real-time buying and selling of ad inventory. Ad serving platforms play a foundational role in both direct ad sales and programmatic advertising, emphasizing their versatility and indispensability.

Benefits of Ad Serving Platforms

Ad Serving Platforms are indispensable for advertisers seeking targeted, efficient, and data-driven advertising strategies. One notable benefit lies in their advanced targeting capabilities, exemplified by platforms like Google Ad Manager. Advertisers can leverage features such as geo targeting and audience segmentation, ensuring their ads resonate with specific demographics or locations.


These platforms excel at preventing ad fatigue through dynamic ad rotation. For instance, Smart AdServer employs sophisticated algorithms that analyze user interactions in real-time, dynamically adjusting ad delivery to maintain engagement. This feature ensures that audiences are consistently exposed to fresh and relevant content, enhancing overall campaign effectiveness.


An often-overlooked advantage is the robust analytics provided by ad serving platforms. Adform, for instance, delivers comprehensive insights into impressions, clicks, and conversions. This detailed data empowers advertisers to refine and optimize their campaigns based on real-time performance, resulting in more informed decision-making and heightened campaign success.


How Does an Ad Server Work?

Ad serving platforms operate seamlessly to deliver relevant ads in the blink of an eye. As users navigate the web, listen to podcasts, or stream videos, ad servers engage in a rapid exchange of information, orchestrating the display of a digital campaign in fractions of a second.


When a user opens a website, the browser initiates a call to the publisher's web server for the page's content. This pivotal moment triggers the involvement of ad servers. These ad servers dynamically come into play, interacting with each other to assess campaign parameters and serve up the most pertinent ads. This dynamic process simplifies the complex landscape of ad buying and planning for digital advertising.


Consider this scenario in action: a user clicks on a news article, prompting the browser to fetch content from the publisher's server. Simultaneously, ad servers communicate in real-time, evaluating factors such as user behavior, demographics, and contextual relevance. This collaborative effort ensures that the ads displayed are not just timely but tailored to the user's interests, creating a more engaging and personalized online experience.


Types of Ad Servers

  • First-Party Ad Servers

First-party ad servers are directly operated and managed by the publisher or advertiser. They provide complete control over ad serving processes, enabling publishers to manage their ad inventory and control the delivery of campaigns. These servers are typically integrated into the publisher's infrastructure, offering a more personalized and hands-on approach. Examples include Google Ad Manager and AdButler.


  • Third-Party Ad Servers

Third-party ad servers operate independently of the publisher or advertiser and are often used by ad agencies, ad networks, or technology vendors. They facilitate the delivery of ads across multiple publishers, allowing for centralized ad management and tracking. Third-party ad servers offer greater flexibility and scalability, making them suitable for advertisers with diverse placements. Examples of third-party ad servers include DoubleClick (now part of Google Ad Manager), Adform, and Smart AdServer.


  • Ad Network Ad Servers

Ad network ad servers play a crucial role in managing and optimizing ads across a network of websites. These servers facilitate the distribution of ads from a central ad network to various publishers, helping advertisers reach a wider audience. Examples include OpenX and AdMob.


  • Video Ad Servers

Video ad servers specialize in delivering and managing video advertisements. They handle the intricacies of video ad formats, tracking video-specific metrics, and ensuring smooth playback. Brightcove and SpotX are examples of video ad servers.


  • Mobile Ad Servers

With the rise of mobile devices, mobile ad servers focus on delivering ads specifically tailored for mobile apps and websites. They consider factors such as screen size, device type, and user behavior. MoPub and Smaato are popular mobile ad servers.


  • Rich Media Ad Servers

Rich media ad servers specialize in delivering interactive and engaging ad formats beyond standard banners. They support ads with multimedia elements, interactive features, and dynamic content. Google Web Designer and Flashtalking are examples of rich media ad servers.


  • Contextual Ad Servers

Contextual ad servers analyze the content of a web page or app to serve ads that are contextually relevant to the surrounding content. They enhance user experience by aligning ads with the topic or theme of the page. Infolinks and Kontera (now Amobee) are examples of contextual ad servers.


These diverse types of ad servers cater to the evolving needs and preferences of advertisers, publishers, and technology providers. Selecting the most suitable type depends on the specific goals, target audience, and nature of the advertising campaign.


Why Do Publishers Need Ad Serving Platforms?

Publishers benefit significantly from ad serving platforms as these tools play a crucial role in efficiently managing and optimizing the display of advertisements on their digital properties. The key reasons why publishers need ad serving platforms, include:


Ad Inventory Management:

Ad serving platforms enable publishers to organize and manage their ad inventory effectively. They can control the frequency, placement, and format of ads on their websites, ensuring a seamless and non-intrusive user experience. This level of control is essential for maintaining a balance between content and advertising.


Ad Rotation and Diversity:

Ad servers facilitate ad rotation, preventing audience fatigue by dynamically displaying different creatives over time. Publishers can showcase a variety of ads within the same ad space, keeping the content fresh and engaging for users. This feature helps maximize the impact of ad campaigns.


Targeted Ad Delivery:

Ad serving platforms empower publishers to target specific audiences based on factors such as demographics, geography, or user behavior. This targeted approach enhances the relevance of ads, increasing the likelihood of user engagement and interaction.


Performance Analytics:

Publishers gain valuable insights into the performance of their ad inventory through ad serving platforms. These tools provide detailed analytics, including impressions, clicks, and conversion data. Publishers can use these metrics to assess the effectiveness of ad placements and make informed decisions for future campaigns.


Revenue Optimization:

Ad serving platforms assist publishers in optimizing their revenue streams by effectively managing ad spaces. They can implement pricing strategies, such as cost-per-thousand (CPM) or cost-per-click (CPC), and utilize data-driven insights to maximize the earning potential of their digital assets.


Improved User Experience:

By controlling the quantity and relevance of ads displayed, ad serving platforms contribute to an enhanced user experience. Publishers can avoid ad clutter, ensure faster page loading times, and create a more enjoyable browsing environment for their audience.


Flexibility and Autonomy:

Ad serving platforms provide publishers with flexibility and autonomy in managing their advertising strategies. Publishers can easily update creatives, change targeting parameters, and implement adjustments in real-time without relying on external parties.


What Is Server-Side and Client-Side Ad Serving?

Server-side ad serving processes occur on the publisher's server before delivering content, reducing latency and possibly resisting ad-blockers. This method, while efficient, may limit ad interactivity. Conversely, client-side ad serving processes occur on the user's device, allowing for greater interactivity but potentially causing latency and facing ad-blocking challenges. The decision depends on factors like desired interactivity and page load speed. Some platforms utilize hybrid approaches, combining elements of both server-side and client-side ad serving for optimal performance. These approaches aim to balance the need for faster page loads, interactive ad experiences, and resilience against ad-blocking technologies in the ever-evolving landscape of digital advertising.


The Top Ad Serving Platforms for Publishers in 2024

In 2024, several top-notch ad serving platforms empower publishers with diverse tools for effective digital advertising. Google Ad Manager stands out as a comprehensive solution, offering advanced targeting and analytics. Kevel is known for its flexibility, enabling customization of ad experiences. Smart (Equativ) provides a holistic platform with dynamic optimization and monetization features. E-Planning emphasizes user-friendly ad management and reporting. Epom Ad Server excels in scalability and cross-channel ad management. Revive Ad Server is an open-source option, offering flexibility and control. OIO Publisher focuses on simplicity and direct ad sales, catering to smaller publishers. These platforms collectively represent the evolving landscape, catering to various publisher needs in 2024. Publishers can leverage these platforms to optimize revenue streams and enhance user experiences through targeted and efficiently managed ad campaigns.


How to Choose the Best Ad Serving Platform?

Selecting the best ad serving platform necessitates a strategic evaluation of specific requirements and goals. 

  • Clearly defining advertising objectives, such as revenue maximization or enhanced user experience, serves as a foundational step. 
  • Consideration of scalability ensures the chosen platform can accommodate the growth of digital properties and ad inventory. 
  • Assessing targeting capabilities is crucial for aligning with audience segmentation needs.
  • Robust analytics and reporting tools become paramount for tracking ad performance and making data-driven decisions. 
  • Evaluation of ad formats and creative support, seamless integration capabilities, and prioritization of ad quality and viewability contribute to a positive user experience. 
  • Additionally, understanding pricing models, checking for flexibility and customization, reviewing the user interface, and seeking feedback from user reviews are essential aspects to making an informed decision and choosing a platform that aligns with budget constraints and overall campaign objectives.



In essence, ad servers within ad serving platforms function as nimble orchestrators, choreographing the intricate ballet of digital advertising in the background. Their ability to adapt to campaign parameters and serve up relevant content in the blink of an eye is a testament to the efficiency and sophistication of ad serving platforms in the fast-paced realm of online advertising.

No matter if you're a young startup seeking to optimize your advertising game or an experienced business with years behind your back, you need to narrow down a list of the top ad serving platforms and start using one in 2024. It’s nothing less than a strategic move. If you have any questions, contact Axis and partner with a leader in the programmatic ad industry.

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