Taken For Granted: The Many Problems Solved by the Modern Ad Server

The creation of ad servers more than 20 years ago revolutionized our relationship with the internet. As the web expanded at an astronomical speed, publishers discovered new ways of commercializing their content, brands discovered engaged and relevant audiences, and online users were able to continue browsing the internet for free.

Over the past two decades, the technology underpinning digital advertising has undergone significant changes. We’ve seen the introduction of bidding engines in the form of demand-side platforms (DSPs), as well as the introduction of data management platforms (DMPs) to help execute campaigns in the Age of Big Data. However, throughout all these changes, ad servers have remained the foundation of advertising technology, quietly adapting in order to continue empowering advertisers.

These days, ad servers are almost an afterthought for most people in our industry, despite being a vital component of their success. Let’s take a look at the different problems a modern ad server solves, and why marketers and publishers should care.

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Problem: No Reliable Dependable Ad Delivery

When you buy eggs from your local shop, you expect the egg box to do its job and deliver the eggs safely intact, without any breakage or cracks. Similarly, there is an expectation that third-party ad servers (TPAS) ensure every ad consistently arrives without any technical problems.

Digital ads that slow pages, un-mute, or break out of their placements are sure to incur the wrath of users. Websites that fail to deliver a high-quality experience will inevitably prompt users to install ad blockers.

Problem solved: Ad servers allow advertisers to take control of the quality and distribution of their ads, providing users with a safe, consistent, and positive experience across the internet, while also protecting the reputation of the publisher.

Problem: Fraudulent Counting

Today’s ads remain vulnerable to fraudsters looking to profit from fake traffic. Although most publishers do deliver on their insertion orders or programmatic commitments, bad actors still exist and have stolen millions from advertisers over time.

Problem solved: Ad serving can help uncover the truth by providing independent auditing, making it harder to falsify datasets by manipulating ad implementation. TPAS provides secure ad delivery that is near impossible for bad actors to crack and can also measure viewability and other metrics securely at a distance.

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Problem: Disconnected Reporting

With the development of digital advertising, as media buying opportunities scaled, running media plans across multiple publishers created a large number of reports in different formats with different counting methodologies. A large operational effort was required to bring these numbers together in order to gain an overall picture of the effectiveness of a particular campaign.

Problem solved: With TPAS, reporting happens in one place with one view on what is happening across all advertising channels, media, and devices, giving advertisers thorough and complete reports with minor operational effort, thereby saving agencies vast sums of money in fees.

Problem: No Understanding of True Attribution

Ad servers also help advertisers find out which site deserves credit for a particular sale. With lots of sources of conversion information, any number of publishers might claim it was their media spot that drove the conversion. This is famously why media-owning walled gardens limit independent third-party measurement. The big guys both opt for more opaque reporting.

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