Why you need an ad server?
For a publisher, it is essential to ensure that the content on the website is fresh, targeted, and of high quality. The reason is such high-quality websites allow for better ad placements, drive actual sales, and create an impact on the bottom line.
Even with the best content and site design, simply running the ads wouldn’t help you generate increasing revenue, your ad management plays a vital role. For an ad inventory to create an impact, proper campaign management and performance tracking are required. This is where ad servers make their way and serve as the core component.
With real-time bidding, it has become quite easy for a publisher, like you, to get bids from advertisers. But it is, indeed, troublesome to track performance metrics and use it to optimize the ad revenue and user experience. This activity calls for a full-time effort, which can influence your other actions.
Hence, there is a need for an ad server that provides you with an intuitive interface to manage and track ad performance, monitor essential metrics, refresh ads, set frequency capping, optimize ad activities, and generate ad reports based on parameters such as events, clicks, impressions, conversions, ad sizes and formats, and ROI.
This article provides the list of ad servers (in no particular order) that assist publishers not only in monetizing but also in managing, tracking, optimizing, and generating custom reports. We have used a fair share of ad servers in the market ourselves. However, to give more context and use cases, we sourced reviews and ratings from third-party platforms.
Best Ad Servers For Publishers
AppNexus (Now rebranded to ‘Xandr’) is one of the leading adtech companies with a built-in Marketplace, SSP, and ad server. You can run a single unified auction for all your buyers to intensify the competition and reap better yield from your inventories.
It comes with the analytics tool which crunches the last 2 years’ datasets to give you the estimated yield and inventory availability. The forecasting is better than the rivals.
Sidenote: AppNexus has been rebranded to Xandr Monetize.
- Supports video, display, and native and can be used to serve ads across all screen sizes.
- Open dynamic allocation feature to let your programmatic demand to compete against direct deals.
- It comes with an SSP.
- Premium support.
Is the AppNexus ad server right for you?
Without a doubt, AppNexus has one of the best ad servers in the market. If you’re a premium publisher who trades tens of millions of ad impressions per month, you can give AppNexus a try. You’re likely to find a ton of features in AppNexus as it is made for top media publishers.
Google Ad Manager (DFP)*
One of the best-known and widely used ad servers for publishers is Google Ad Manager; previously known as Double Click for Publishers. As a publisher, you look for an ad server that provides flexibility for both remnant and direct inventory, allows ad deliveries immediately, is easy to use, and comes with minimum interferences in monetization. Google ad server is one such advantageous option available in the market.
- It integrates easily with Google Adsense and Doubleclick Ad Exchange, offering the option to maximize revenue from both.
- It allows dynamic allocation and price priority combination to serve ads
- Provides an option to channelize remnant impressions so that every impression can count
- Comes with malware detection capabilities that alert about suspicious malware including Trojans, viruses, fake URLs, fake flash files or gifs
- Automatically re-scan the ads intermittently
- It provides a cap on frequency and impressions, to rotate and adjust ad delivery
- The best part of Google ad server is it is free to use (up to a certain limit)
Is Google Ad Manager right for you?
This ad server comes in two variations. One for small business and the DFP premium. If you are a start-up or small business publisher, Google Ad Manager (DFP small business) is the best for you. It does not require any minimum traffic and is available free of cost. But, you need to have an Adsense account. To use the DFP premium, you should have 90 million as a minimum traffic requirement.
Here’s the complete guide to help you with Google Ad Manager.
If you are a publisher looking for a platform that offers full transparency and control, the SMART ad server is the ultimate open ad server to choose from. It allows publishers to run programmatic as well as direct ads across all formats. SMART offers unified auction capabilities that assist publishers to monetize every ad impression.
- It provides granular reporting, unlike its counterparts, thereby helping in campaign performance optimization.
- It enables you to provide custom ad experiences.
- It also serves as the SSP.
- It comes with real-time analytics that helps in forecasting leading to better revenue opportunities.
- It provides advanced targeting options including contextual targeting to target the right audience at the right time.
- Provides an API to customize publishers’ needs accordingly.
Is Smart right for you?
If you’re a premium publisher looking to try an ad server, Smart is one of the best servers to experiment with.
Epom ad server is a white-label ad platform for cross-platform advertising. It is suitable for every publisher or ad network regardless of the company size. Features of Epom’s product include extensive customization, 40+ available ad formats, smart auto-optimization algorithms, and the ability to act as an SSP. It is recognized for its uptime, easy integration with 3rd-party analytics platforms, and templates for non-standard ad formats.
- It is a white label solution and hence a publisher can easily customize it for their needs.
- It comes with 800+ targeting, optimization, analytics, and campaign management features on board.
- Four levels of account access (user, supervisor, publisher, and advertiser roles) with their specific features are available. Thus, ad networks can set up accounts for their clients.
- It supports almost 50 in-built cross-channel formats.
- It can act as a supply-side platform to sell placement via RTB protocol.
Is EPOM right for you?
EPOM is best for publishers and ad networks who need a highly customizable ad-serving platform. The basic plan is worth $250 per month and includes 8.5M/mo web display impressions plus 250K/mo video + HTML5 impressions. The number of accessible formats is also limited. To utilize more formats and impressions, you can jump to premium tiers.
AdGlare is an easy-to-use self-serving ad server that works out of the box. Though the AdGlare ad server does not come free, the cost depends on the number of ad requests in a month. AdGlare platform supports rich media, banner displays, and even in-stream video ads. You can see a live demo of an ad server too.
It has all the basic functions you need in an ad server. From ad creative setup to targeting, everything can be done in a few minutes.
- It comes with a well-designed dashboard for users to easily track and manage advertising campaigns.
- It has lead conversion features such as geo-targeting and browser targeting to connect with the relevant audience.
- It can be easily integrated with any Content Management Systems and is compatible with many.
- Keep a cap on visitor frequency.
- It allows geo-targeting up to the small location levels such as cities.
Is AdGlare right for you?
If you are a mid-market publisher looking to set up and manage directly-sold ads, AdGlare is the best fit. You can’t connect to any other ad networks to sell remnant inventories, so AdGlare isn’t the ideal choice for one who would like to use RTB/ad networks to earn revenue.
Kevel (previously known as Adzerk) provides a suite of APIs that make it easy for publishers to build their own ad servers. They are best suited for companies who want full control over their ad server – including custom revenue logic, native ads, fast server-side ad response times, ad blocking workarounds, and more.
- JSON API responses allow you to turn any organic content into an ad, such as sponsoring a search result, piece of content, recipe, etc.
- Turnkey access to a first-party data management platform for user-level targeting.
- Custom revenue and auction pricing rules.
- Granular reporting – through a UI or API.
Is Kevel right for you?
If you sell most of your traffic directly and don’t rely on programmatic – and you find your current ad server is too slow or un-customizable, Kevel will be a good fit.
Other than the above-mentioned ad servers, there are many others such as Revive Ad Server, AerServ, etc. However, with so many options available, it gets difficult to choose the ones best suited to your business needs. Hence, before searching for the right ad server, it is essential to determine your ad serving needs. For example, if you wish to create a video ad, you must look for a server that has the CDN capabilities, and built-in formats to serve video ads seamlessly.
We’ll soon release a detailed checklist on evaluating the ad server (get notified when we do so by joining our email list). But for now, here’s the simpler version to help you select the right ad server:
- Real-time analytics
- Targeting options
- Cross-device advertising
- Frequency capping
- Automated optimization
- Browser support
- 24/7 technical support