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Why do you need an ad server?
As the saying goes, “Content is king,” and as a publisher, you know this all too well. But, if the content is king, then ad revenue is the queen that keeps your kingdom running. And, to keep that queen happy, you need an ad server that is more than just a court jester.
In fact, ad servers are the secret weapons of publishers who want to keep their ad revenue flowing without losing their minds in the process. An ad server acts as a manager, monitoring your ad inventory, optimizing campaigns, and providing insights into performance metrics. It’s the unsung hero of your website, quietly doing its job in the background while you focus on creating killer content.
But not all ad servers are created equally, and finding the right one can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Luckily, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you and compiled a list of the top ad servers for publishers.
Our list includes ad servers that offer intuitive interfaces, performance tracking, ad refresh, frequency capping, and custom report generation. We’ve scoured the internet for reviews and ratings from the third-party platform so that you can get a real sense of each ad server’s strengths and weaknesses.
What Is an Ad Server?
An ad server is a software platform that enables publishers and advertisers to optimize, manage, and deliver ads on multiple online channels. Ad servers facilitate the targeting of specific audiences, tracking ad performance, and optimizing ad placements to maximize revenue. They work in conjunction with demand-side platforms (DSPs) and supply-side platforms (SSPs) to ensure seamless transactions and real-time bidding between advertisers and publishers.
If you want to know more about ad servers and what happens behind the scenes, you can explore our article: Ad Server – A Definitive Guide For Publishers.
Ad server Vs. SSP and DSP
Ad servers, supply-side platforms (SSPs), and demand-side platforms (DSPs) are distinct components of the online advertising ecosystem, each serving a specific purpose. While ad servers help publishers manage and display their ad inventory, SSPs and DSPs focus on the buying and selling side of the advertising process.
SSPs primarily cater to publishers by streamlining the process of selling ad inventory to multiple advertisers. They provide publishers access to a broader range of demand sources, enabling them to maximize their ad revenue.
On the other hand, DSPs cater to advertisers, allowing them to purchase ad inventory from various publishers through a single platform. DSPs enable advertisers to target specific audiences, set bidding strategies, and optimize their ad campaigns based on performance. In summary, ad servers provide publishers with the tools to manage and display ads, while SSPs and DSPs facilitate the buying and selling of ad inventory, acting as intermediaries between publishers and advertisers.
What Are Video Ad Servers? Are They Different From Display Ad Servers?
Video ad servers are specialized platforms designed to manage, deliver, and track video advertisements on various online channels such as websites, mobile apps, and connected TV devices. They are tailored to handle the unique requirements of video advertising, ensuring seamless delivery of video ads in different formats like pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll, as well as overlays and companion ads.
And yes, video ad servers are different from display ad servers. While both types of ad servers serve ads, they are designed to handle different types of advertising formats and requirements. Some major differences are:
- Ad Formats: Video ad servers support video-specific ad formats and industry standards, including VAST (Video Ad Serving Template), VPAID (Video Player-Ad Interface Definition), and VMAP (Video Multiple Ad Playlist). On the other hand, display ad servers primarily handle standard display ad formats like banners, interstitials, and native ads.
- Ad Delivery: Video ad servers are designed to deliver video ads with minimal latency and buffering, ensuring a smooth user experience, while display ad servers focus on delivering static or animated image-based ads.
- Ad Performance Metrics: Video ad servers track video-specific performance metrics such as viewability, completion rate, and engagement, whereas display ad servers track metrics like impressions, clicks, and conversions.
- Ad Pod Management: Video ad servers offer ad pod management features, allowing advertisers and publishers to manage clusters of video ads played sequentially within a single ad break. This feature is unique to video advertising and not applicable to display ad servers.
5 Best Ad Servers For Publishers
- Xandr (AppNexus)
- Google Ad Manager (Google DFP)
- Kevel (formerly, Adzerk)
Best Ad Servers For Publishers
Xandr ad server (earlier ‘AppNexus’) 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 a better yield from your inventories.
It comes with its analytics tool, which crunches the last two years datasets to give you the estimated yield and inventory availability. The forecasting is better than the rivals.
- 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 compete against direct deals.
- It comes with an SSP.
- Premium support.
Is the Xander ad server right for you?
Without a doubt- Xandr 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 it a try. You’re likely to find many features in Xandr 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 channel 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.
- It supports all ad formats.
- 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 publisher ad server has two variations—one for small businesses and the DFP premium. If you are a start-up or small 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. The premium version is Google Ad Manager 360. You should have 90 million as a minimum traffic requirement to be able to use it.
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; hence, publishers 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 monthly 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 is not free, the cost depends on the number of monthly ad requests. AdGlare platform supports rich media ads, 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. Everything can be done in a few minutes, from ad creative setup to targeting.
- It has a well-designed dashboard for users to track and manage advertising campaigns easily.
- 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 system and is compatible with many.
- Keep a cap on visitor frequency.
- It allows geo-targeting up to 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, choosing the ones best suited to your business needs is difficult. 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 with CDN capabilities and built-in formats to serve video ads seamlessly.
Here’s what you must look for while selecting the right ad server:
- Real-time analytics
- Targeting options
- Cross-device advertising
- Frequency capping
- Automated optimization
- Browser support
- 24/7 technical support