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Ad serversThe delivery of ads by a server to an end user’s computer on which the ads are then displayed by a browser or cached. Ad serving is normally performed either by a Web publisher or by a third-party ad server. Ads can be embedded in the page or served separately. are servers that store advertisements and serve them to Web pages. Ad servers can be local, run by a publisher to serve advertisements to Web sites on the publisher’s domain, or they can be third-party ad servers that serve advertisements to Web pages on any domain. Ad servers facilitate advertisement trafficking and provide reports on advertisement performance.
An advertising network is a group of Web sites on which advertisements can be purchased through a single sales entity. It could be a collection of sites owned by the same publisher (e.g., AOL, CNN, and Sports Illustrated are all owned by AOL/Time Warner), or it could be an affiliation of sites that share a representative.
The advertising network acts as an intermediary between advertisers and publishers and provides a technology solution to both. As well as providing a centralized ad server that can serve advertisements to a number of Web sites, the networks offer tracking and reporting, as well as targeting.
Rather than distribute copies of each piece of creative advertising to each publisher or media buyer, you can send out a line of code that calls up an advertisement directly from the ad server each time an advertisement is scheduled to run. The agency loads the creative to the server once and can modify rotations or add new units on the fly without needing to recontact the vendors.
The ad servers provide a wealth of data, including impressions served, advertisements clicked, click-through rate (CTR)The number and percentage of recipients who clicked on a particular uniform resource locator (URL) included in an e-mail, a Web page, and so on., and cost per click (CPC). Most of the ad servers also have the ability to provide performance against postclick activities such as sales, leads, downloads, or any other site-based action the advertiser may want to measure.
Ad servers provide a consistent counting methodology across the entire campaign enabling the advertiser to gain an “apples to apples” comparison of performance across the entire media schedule, which includes multiple Web sites.
The ad server also allows sophisticated targeting of display advertising.
The trackability of online advertising is what makes it so superior to pasting pictures around town in a bid to boost your brand. An advertiser can tell not only how many times an advertisement was seen (impressions) but also how many times the advertisement was successful in sending visitors to the advertised Web site (clicks). The tracking needs to continue on the Web site to determine how successful the advertisement has been in creating more revenue for that Web site (conversions).
As well as tracking advertisements being served and clicked on, advertising networks can also provide information about the people who saw the advertisement as well as those who acted on it. Here is some of the information that can be provided:
Why do you think knowing the connection type and browser of your users is important? Think about the advertising that might be shown in the United States versus the advertising shown in South Africa.
Many ad servers will set a cookie on impression of an advertisement, not just on click-throughA click on a link that leads to another Web site., so it is possible to track latent conversionsWhen someone comes to your Web site through an ad campaign, leaves the site, and then comes back later (by another paid click, an organic click, typing in your uniform resource locator [URL], a bookmark, or something else), and then converts. (within the cookie period).
And the best thing? Using this information, the advertising networks can target the display of advertising, helping advertisers optimize campaigns and get the most from the advertising spending.
Cookies are small text files that allow a Web site to capture information about a user. A cookie period is the duration for which a Web site will store that information. See Chapter 4 "Affiliate Marketing" for a description of cookies.
Advertising networks serve advertisements across a number of Web sites and can track a user visiting Web sites in the network using cookies or Internet protocol (IP) addressesUsed to uniquely identify a computer and system on the Internet.. This means that advertising networks can offer advertisers the following:
Privacy is a big deal, and the information collected via advertisements is kept anonymous. Cookies are not only used by Web sites for tracking. Cookies also allow Web sites to “remember” a visitor’s preferences, such as language and location. Where a visitor will not accept the cookie from an advertising network, either by opting out or because their browser deletes cookies, many networks will rely on the IP address of the visitor to track which Web sites are visited. Even though the information is anonymous, there are consumers who do not like having their browsing habits analyzed so that better advertising can be served to them.
The advertising network can also target advertisements based on the business rules of the advertiser or based on the profiles of the users:
Contextual advertising can be problematic. For example, advertisements for a Hilton hotel could appear next to newspaper reports of a Paris Hilton arrest. Advertisements for yachts showed up next to coverage of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Contextual advertising can be humorous.
Advertising networks are also creating advertising exchanges, where publishers can place unsold inventory for bidding. The inventory is sold to the highest bidding advertiser. Giving advertisers far more control, this type of advertising mimics a pay-per-click (PPC) model of paid search bidding (generalized second price auction)—but bids are for audience profiles and space rather than for keywords. It allows publishers to fill unsold inventory at the highest available price and can give smaller advertisers access to this inventory.
Ad servers and ad networks provide trafficking, tracking, and reporting solutions to both advertisers and publishers. They allow advertisers to target display advertisements based on parameters, which include the following: