Glossary

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Ad Server

What is Ad Server ?

A web-based application that helps publishers, advertisers, and ad networks with campaign management, ad distribution, and managing websites and applications. Ad servers provide management tools for managing advertising campaigns, including tracking, launching, and uploading. Their job is to decide which ads should appear on a website and serve them to the appropriate audience. The ad servers also help advertisers get insights into the performance of their advertising and provide this data back to them. Both options are self-hosted ad serving software (running on corporate servers) and hosted services (using a provider's servers).

Publishers, advertisers, ad agencies, and ad networks utilize ad servers to manage and execute online advertising campaigns. It is the job of ad servers to make split-second decisions about which ads should be displayed on a website and then serve them. In addition, an ad server collects and reports data (such as impressions, clicks, etc.) for advertisers to obtain insights from and monitor the success of their advertising for the advertisers. Ad servers are to advertisements what WordPress is to content at its most basic level. Ad servers are similar to Word Press in that they manage and show online advertising content to the appropriate user on a website. First-party ad servers are used by publishers and advertisers alike (known as third-party ad servers).

Publishers and advertisers employ first-party and third-party ad servers for different reasons, despite both using the same basic technology. Publishers can manage ad slots on their websites and show ads that have been sold directly to advertisers via direct campaigns by using first-party ad servers. An advertiser who owns an ad server is in charge of targeting and serving the ads on the website following the nuanced targeting parameters. It also collects and reports the data (such as impressions, clicks, etc.). Advertisers can easily track their advertising campaigns by utilizing ad servers.

Because the first-party ad server loads an advertiser's ad server ad tag, the latter's functionality is limited. For the most part, it's only used to gather campaign data and check certain performance indicators, like the number of views and clicks. However, third-party ad servers can be used to optimize some forms of advertising creative - such as changing the creative used in a campaign or running A/B tests on the creative - but first-party ad servers are still responsible for determining the campaign's targeting.

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