Ad Trafficking Platforms vs. Ad Networks vs. Ad Mediation Platforms
- An Ad Trafficking Platform is essentially a server and rules engine that inserts advertisements into content and reports on impressions and click-throughs—the key metrics by which any ad campaign is measured. The ad platform provides the intelligence necessary to manage multiple concurrent campaigns with different start and end dates, frequency caps, targeting parameters, pacing requirements and so forth. Ad platforms can also optimize for yield or other factors. Ad trafficking is thoroughly commoditized at this point so all but the highest volume providers attempt to earn their keep through premium ad sales (“rep’ing” publisher inventory) or by operating ad networks.
- An Ad Network is a marketplace that brings publishers with available inventory together with advertisers who have money to spend. Ad networks are typically operated a “blind exchanges” wherein advertisers buy inventory in broad demographic or content categories (e.g., males aged 25-34 or sports) without actually knowing which sites their ads will run on. Most large publishers try to sell as much of their inventory as they can by themselves because they can charge higher rates to advertisers who want specific inventory on their sites. This is usually called “premium” inventory. Whatever inventory is not sold on a premium basis may then be sold as “remnant” inventory on an ad network. Thus, ad networks primarily serve to fill up remnant inventory from large publishers and other inventory from publishers who are too small to have their own sales force. Inventory purchased through a network can often be 5 – 10x cheaper than the same inventory purchased on a premium basis, but publishers rely on them to sell unfilled inventory. Publishers typically have a love/hate relationship with the ad networks they rely on due to the deeply discounted rates the networks offer.
- Ad Mediation Platforms are basically ad trafficking platforms that are integrated at the API level with multiple ad networks. The ad mediation platform makes it possible for a publisher to set up inventory in just one system while sourcing ads from multiple competing sellers.