Ad Servers


An Ad Server is a piece of advertising technology used by publishers, ad agencies, ad networks to manage and run advertising campaigns.


Running ads is the way websites make money through their content. Every ad placed on the publisher’s site must be constantly monitored, managed, replaced, and tested.

Buying and selling of ads between advertisers and publishers was initially done manually. Soon, to improve the efficiency and manage various advertisers, first party ad servers were born.

Ad server is the storehouse to the ads. It manages to display the online advertising content to the right user on a website.

Ad servers are the platform that have evolved to suit the demands of advertisers and publishers in the ecosystem. Ad servers used by the publishers are called first-party ad servers. And that used by the advertisers is called a third-party ad server.


Amazon DSP is an example of an ad server that allows agencies to buy media placements which further will be programmatically delivered on publishers sites, Amazon websites, and third-party exchanges.

Way in which an Ad Server works

In the mid 1990s, the traditional publishers moved towards online publishing when the internet already took its full swing in the 1990s. It gave umpteen opportunities to not only create content but to use the platform for displaying ads.

In the initial years, the buying and selling of ad spaces happened manually. But soon players realised that they would need an efficient system. This is when Ad Server started the work. There are two types of Ad Servers: one is first-party ad server and third-party ad server.

First party ad server:

  • Step 1: Browser sends request when the user visits a website to ask for page content.
  • Step 2: The publisher’s web servers return the HTML and it starts rendering the page content.
  • Step 3: An ad request is further sent to the ad server of publishers to fill the slot on the page.
  • Step 4: The publisher’s ad server choses ad campaign based on the information obtained by the user.
  • Step 5: The publisher’s ad server will send JavaScript to the website and then the ad is displayed to the user.

Third party ad server:

  • Step 1: One user will visit a website and the browser will send a request to the publisher’s web server asking for page content.
  • Step 2: The publisher’s web server will then return the HTML and then render page content.
  • Step 3: The request will send the publisher’s ad to fill the ad slot on the page.
  • Step 4: The publisher ad server chooses ad campaigns based on information obtained about the user.
  • Step 5: The publisher’s ad server sends back the ad markup containing the URL that points to the advertiser’s ad server.
  • Step 6: The ad markup further sends the request to the advertiser’s ad server for ad markup and counts the impressions.
  • Step 7: The advertiser’s ad server sends the mark up to the publisher’s site to further display the ad to the user.

Benefits of Ad Server

These are the benefits of an Ad Server:

  • You can optimise ad campaigns.
  • Advertisers can have real-time analytics to take care of brand safety, ad fraud, and visibility.
  • Get timely performance reports to scale campaigns and drive results.
  • Track all conversion tracking in terms of actual registration, actual purchase, lead, and viewing certain page.
  • An Ad Server allows you to host all your media campaigns in one account.
  • Manage your Ad Budget in one central location.
  • Enhanced targeting options for campaigns.
  • Centralise all ad buying, tracking and performance metrics in one place.

Future of Ad Servers

Technology sector today sees the maximum revolution because it is the mother of invention. Well for Ad Servers, the future is bright because it helps publishers and advertisers save a lot of time and money.

There is a lot to serve in the industry as people look for more convenience in running campaigns and maximising their profits. In future, publishers and advertisers may require an Ad Server that has:

  • Intuitive UI
  • Can improve to feature mobile ad servers
  • Deep targeting opportunities

Some expect that the future of the Ad Server will be a combination of Real-Time Bidding(RTB) and sales models like CPM and CPC.

How to Choose an Ad Server for your site?

These are the steps you can follow to choose an Ad Server:

  • Decide the selling strategy because not all Ad servers can cater to your demand. Choose how you want to monetize through the server.
  • See which of the features will you need in the Ad Server. The features may include targeting, reporting, campaign trafficking, and forecasting.
  • The servers should be easy to use and should provide 24/7 support.
  • Check whether the system is capable of retrieving data or not.
  • The ad server you choose should support ad types like mobiles, videos, and ad exchanges.


What is a first-party ad server?

A first party ad server is for publishers to help them manage ad slots on their website. It enables the publishers to display those ads which have been sold directly to advertisers via direct campaigns.

A first-party ad server allows users to make decisions about which ads to display on a website. The display will be made on targeting parameters like user’s interest. The first-party ad servers are used for inventory forecasting that tells about how much inventory the publisher has for sale.

What are third-party ad servers?

Third party ad servers are used for tracking ad campaigns. The functionality of third-party servers is limited in comparison to first-party ad servers. The former collects campaign data such as impressions and clicks.

The third party ad server provides all aggregated campaign information to the advertiser. Ultimately, advertisers have the ownership and control of the collected data.

What are the two types of ad servers?

The two types of ad servers include a hosted ad server and the second is a self-hosted version. A hosted ad server is the one that is run and maintained on an ad server company’s site. On the other hand, the self-hosted version is the one in which you install and maintain your own server.

What are the pros and cons of a hosted ad server?

These are the pros and cons of hosted ad server:


  • No Installation: Nothing needs to be installed. Everything is already installed for you after you simply sign up for the service.
  • Updates: All updates to the platform are installed for you.
  • Support: Generally speaking, hosted platforms offer better support that is also more easily accessible.
  • Speed and Reliability: The majority of hosted platforms are continuously checked for issues. Thus, faults and problems with speed are immediately resolved. usually before you even realise they exist.


  • Cost: Hosted ad servers are more expensive than those that are self-hosted.
  • Customization: The majority of hosted ad servers cannot be tailored to your precise requirements. Several do provide very little customization.
  • Data Control: You do not have complete control over the hosted ad server where your data is stored.

What are the pros and cons of a self-hosted ad server?

These are the pros and cons of a self-hosted ad server:


  • Self-hosted ad server scripts are purchased for a one-time fee. The server you are using to host it is the only continuous expense you have.
  • Customization: To make a self-hosted script specifically fit your needs, you can make changes or engage a programmer to do so.
  • Data Control: You are in charge of and have access to your data on your server.


  • Installation: Your server has to have the ad server script installed. It needs some technological know-how to do this.
  • Updates: You are responsible for keeping an eye out for and installing updates.
  • Technical Problems: You are responsible for resolving any technical problems that the script or server may encounter.

Also ReadComplete Guide to Social Media Advertising 2024

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