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Insertion Order (IO) – Everything You Need to Know

Insertion Order
88.2% of all US digital display ads will be bought via automated channels by 2022.

Adtech has been known for its complex ecosystem and of course, dozens of jargon. As you know, most of the technologies and terms we use today weren’t around a decade ago. However, we do inherit some of the old school definitions and technologies and Insertion Order (IO) is one of them.

You might have heard about Insertion Orders while closing a direct deal with the advertiser. But before moving to Insertion Order, make sure you are aware of every kind of direct deal, including Programmatic Direct

Table of Contents

So, shall we start with the basics?

What is an Insertion Order (IO)?

An Insertion Order (IO) is an agreement between the publisher and advertiser to run an ad campaign. It is the final step of a direct deal. Once an Insertion Order is signed, the advertiser has to run the ads on your site(s) for the specified amount of time and ad impressions.

If you create and sign insertion orders digitally through a vendor like DocuSign, it’s a digital insertion order. Both serve the same purpose, we switched the medium for convenience.

IO contains all sorts of information related to an advertising campaign. This includes,

  • Starting date,
  • Ending date,
  • Ad unit dimensions and placements,
  • Target audience to be covered,
  • Number of impressions to be served,
  • Pricing Structure, and
  • Cost of the campaign.

Note: Do not get confused between the Insertion Order and Deal ID.

What are the benefits of an Insertion Order?


This one is a no-brainer. The purpose of creating an Insertion Order is to make sure that the advertiser is aware of what he’s going to get out of a deal. Thus, avoiding any conflict in the future. On the other side, you know exactly what you’re going to deliver and how much you’re going to get paid. As the Insertion Order has all the specifics, the chances of disagreement between the parties will be little to none.  


Another unbeatable advantage of insertion orders is flexibility. For instance, you’re given a choice to customize what you provide. You can choose to run a leaderboard ad for a certain period of time and then, move the same ad campaign to a rectangular ad unit until the completion date. All you need to do is ensuring the details are understood by the advertiser.


Let’s say you monetize your inventory with an ad network. The relationship between you and the advertiser is obscure. To the advertiser, you’re one of the million suppliers. But when you use an Insertion Order to forge a deal with an advertiser, the alliance is mutual. You are given a chance to build a long-lasting partnership that can help you monetize and deliver a better experience to the readers as well.

Why do you need to skip it?

Insertion Orders have their drawbacks. Here are the few important reasons to skip Insertion Orders:


We all have to agree on the fact that programmatic is attracting a lot of digital ad spend lately.

85% of all US digital display ads will be bought via automated channels in 202o.

–  eMarketer.

This means you can expect to see all of the advertising budgets on the programmatic channels. And, direct deals (especially one-to-one) could be replaced by Private Marketplaces in the near future. So, insertion orders wouldn’t be able to help you in the long run.

If you can sell all your remnant inventories to the best possible CPMs, would you not prefer it? And, it is extremely difficult for most of the publishers (think mid-market) to sell all the impressions through direct deals.


The Insertion Orders are used by millions of publishers to close deals. Hence, advertisers may begin to consider IOs just a piece of paper signed for formality. And, you can’t expect to close deals quickly as it takes time to agree on the terms and conditions. Besides, most publishers love to skip the back and forth conversation between them and the advertisers.

Shrinking Demand:

It’s not just publishers, advertisers are also willing to let the algorithms do the job. With the advancement of DSPs and Ad Exchanges, the ROI of programmatic advertising has become high. Thus, shrinking the demand for direct deals and Insertion Orders.

Best Practices

  • Discrepancies are a part of digital advertising and Insertion Orders are no exception. As we predict the impressions based on our historical data, there’s a chance for deviation. Hence, you need to ensure that the agreed impressions can be delivered even with any unexpected traffic loss and downtime.
  • Know your POC. You should make sure that the advertisers know the specifics and what they mean. If the point of contact is a middleman (think agency), ensure they let the advertisers know and they are legit.
  • Insertion order is one of the most essential factors in a deal. It is imperative that you keep the order in a proper way. Organize them in one place but have a few backups with you.

How to prepare an Insertion Order?

Preparing an insertion order? Then, you need to understand that an Insertion Order can vary depending on your strategy. So, analyze what you’re going to offer and how you’re going to deliver it. However, here’s an insertion order sample you can refer to or use as a base template. You can also download the Insertion Order Template/Insertion Order Sample here.

Insertion Order Template

Insertion Order Template


Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether to work on an Insertion Order or to skip them by partnering with an SSP. You still have to sign an Insertion Order* with the SSP (for distinguishing, we call this as programmatic IO). But most SSPs will have a feature to generate IOs digitally (we have one). So, you don’t need to go through any paperwork at all. 

*The IO signed with a programmatic vendor will be different from the traditional Insertion Orders. This isn’t a deal between a particular advertiser and a publisher. It’s a long-term partnership between a vendor and publisher.” 

We’ve conveyed all the sides of the Insertion Order to help you make an informed decision. 

Let us know if we have missed anything. 

Adtech Weekly by Automatad

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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1 Comment
  • November 26, 2019 at 2:03 pm
    Kristen Pheonix

    who sign insertion order…adAgency or the brand itself?

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