Straight as an Arrow
Creative Commons License photo credit:
las (used to be meeza 1)…cranky today…

Earlier this month, we discussed floating defaults and floor CPMs and how can add more money to your bottom line. But, relying on them alone is relying on the practice of daisy chaining – or serving all ads that one ad network can serve and then defaulting to the next network, until they can’t serve any ads you want and default to the next one and so on, until you reach the end of the chain or the end of your networks.

This forces you to allow the ad networks to serve as many qualifying ads as they can before moving on to the next network. But, what if another network could have given you a better rate on that last impression?

That’s Where Ad Servers Come In

Ad servers, including free options like DoubleClick for Publishers Small Business and OpenX, seek to remedy part of the problem. They work by attempting to serve the best paying ads from any network. The weakness is that tend to be based on the data that you enter manually as far as network performance. So, for example, let’s say you check with two of your ad networks and you see that, for the past month, one is paying you $0.45 CPM and another is paying you $0.60 CPM.

So, you go to your ad server and you enter this data. By telling the ad server this (or by indicating some sort of preferential weighting), you are telling it to serve more ads to the $0.60 CPM network and less to the other one. But, let’s say that next month, those two rates reverse. The second network is now paying you $0.60 and the first one is at $0.45. Well, your ad server doesn’t know this unless you yourself look at the new numbers and enter them manually. So, this data can always be changing.

But, the main idea is to try to serve the best ad for that particular impression, rather than just letting one network serve whatever it can before it passes onto the next network, and that one passes onto the next network, and so on. So, even if the data is a little stale, you should generally be able to improve your performance.

Some ad networks, like Tribal Fusion, grant you the ability to use their ad serving technology, rather than using a dedicated ad server provider.

Automatic Ad Servers

Services like PubMatic, Rubicon Project and YieldBuild are aiming to fix the issue of manual data entry by getting the data from your ad networks directly and automatically. But, they are limited by the number of networks they can work with. For any others, you still have to manually enter the CPM information.

But, theoretically, they should represent an overall gain in revenue and/or time. Even if you want to place a focus on direct selling, if you are not able to completely sell out, you can simply place the automatic ad server after your direct sales, and still get the most of your inventory.