Insertion Order (IO) – Everything You Need to Know

Updated on: December 21, 2023
In the fast-paced world of programmatic ads, insertion orders play a minimal role. Here’s all you need to know about them.

Once things get set up in the programmatic world, most functions happen on the back end without many human peeps and prompts. While this diminished the need for contact between publisher and advertiser, direct deals are on the rise. Insertion Orders (IOs) come in. 

Large publishers can demand particular types of ad creatives, formats, or CPMs. This makes direct deals with advertisers attractive, offering more transparency, brand safety, and the chance to shield first-party data.  

Insertion orders serve as the final step in securing these direct ad deals. Several direct deals are commonplace today, so much so that there are in-built workarounds in the programmatic framework. Programmatic direct and programmatic guaranteed deals are both great starting points for understanding the mechanism that intertwines direct deals with advertisers while still selling ads the programmatic way. 

Here, we will understand what an IO is, the role of insertion order in digital advertising, and the best industry practices associated with them. 

What Is an Insertion Order (IO)?

An insertion order in advertising is an agreement between a publisher and an advertiser to run an ad campaign. It is the final step of a direct deal. Once an IO is signed, the advertiser has to honor the pre-agreed terms for the specified period. 

Creating and signing insertion orders digitally through a vendor like DocuSign is a digital insertion order. Both serve the same purpose, but a digital IO agreement is more convenient in today’s global business ecosystem. 

IO typically contains all crucial parameters of the 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.

Benefits of IO in Advertising


This one is a no-brainer. The purpose of creating an insertion order is to ensure that the advertiser knows what they will get out of a deal. This avoids any conflict in the future. 

On the other hand, publishers know exactly what needs to be delivered and how much they will earn once the deal is complete. The insertion order predefines the terms in black and white, and the chances of disagreement between the parties later become minimal. 


Another unbeatable advantage of insertion orders is flexibility. Publishers are allowed to customize what they provide. Different ad formats can be tested, and the deal can be modified in the future based on what format works best for both parties. But if both parties feel that a skyscraper ad unit would work better for CTRs and bettering UX, it is possible to make that switch. Amendments can be made after the advertiser understands and agrees to the new specifics.


Let’s say a publisher monetizes their inventory with an ad network. There is no interaction between the publisher and the advertiser. Ads displayed on the site are winners of a bidding war that no one witnesses. A publisher is just one of a million other suppliers to the advertiser. 

However, both parties have a clear line of communication when they use IO to secure a direct deal in advertising. During the negotiation process, the back-and-forths bring in an old-world camaraderie between supplier and buyer. Both parties can build a long-lasting partnership and deliver a better experience to the readers.

Best Practices In Using IO

  • Discrepancies are a part of digital advertising, and insertion orders are no exception. When IO contract conditions are not met, it makes the defaulter liable. Therefore, publishers and advertisers must agree upon impressions served and CPMs based on historical data, projections, and accounting for fluctuations.
  • Publishers must ensure that any middleman (think agency) involved is legitimate and that this wouldn’t become a roadblock to meeting the parameters of the IO. 
  • An insertion order gets both parties to agree to terms and is the document that validates the agreement in a court of law. It is imperative that both parties store these documents carefully and that digital backups are in place.

How to Prepare an Insertion Order?

An insertion order in digital advertising serves many purposes. It varies greatly depending on the type of deal and ad campaign type and desired outcomes. So, analyzing the offer and determining possible pathways to hitting deliverables is considered the best practice. However, this is an insertion order template that any publisher or advertiser can refer to or use as a base template. 

Insertion Order Template

As an alternative to the above, we have added the IO template below, which you can use. 

Insertion Order Template

What should an insertion order template cover?

You need to make a comprehensive insertion order to make it specific and detailed. A few of the usual things that it should cover are:

  • Campaign details: ad size, dimension, type, placement, and timings)
  • Campaign performance metrics and reporting: Key performance indicators of the campaign like impression, CTR, and conversions.
  • Billing and payment details: CPM, cost of the campaign, preferred method of payment, payment data, and penalties on late payment.
  • Warranty and liability: This clause includes the deliveries that are guaranteed under contract and the responsibilities of both parties.
  • Force Majeure: The clause frees both parties from responsibilities in case of unexpected causes that prevent them from fulfilling the contract details.
  • Clause on cancellation: Clear procedure for IO agreement cancellation, penalties associated with it, and notice period. 
  • Terms and conditions: Additional terms, responsibilities, and conditions that both parties should follow to prevent future disputes.

Here’s Why Programmatic Deals Are Winning

Despite the positives mentioned above, insertion orders have their drawbacks. For publishers of a certain size, it might become difficult to manage multiple orders, track earnings, and negotiate a higher CPM if there is a sudden increase in site traffic. Also, for a publisher serving millions of ad impressions monthly, it might become tedious to forge direct deals with every advertiser looking to buy ad inventory. Negotiations are time-consuming, and it is often weeks before both parties ink the dotted line. 

This Is Why Programmatic Is the Future

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

87% of all U.S. digital display ads will be bought via automated channels in 2026.

This means that more of the global advertising budget will flow through programmatic channels in the future. And direct deals (especially one-to-one) could be replaced by Private Marketplaces in the near future. So, insertion orders, in the long run, could be on their way out.

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


While IO contracts are just the final document showing campaign details, there are a whole host of negotiations and processes to go through to secure deals. It takes time to agree on the terms and conditions. Besides, most publishers would love to skip the back-and-forths with advertisers.

Shrinking Demand:

It’s not just publishers; advertisers are also willing to let the algorithms do the job. It reduces effort and guarantees better returns. 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.

IO: Is It Necessary?

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

*The IO signed with a programmatic vendor will differ 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 a publisher. 


What is an insertion order?

An insertion order is the signed agreement between a publisher and an advertiser that specifies the parameters of the ad campaign both parties are working on. Once signed, the binding document holds both parties responsible for delivering their end of the deal.

What does an insertion order template look like?

Most IO contracts contain basic terms, like start and end date, ad unit dimensions, impressions, pricing, and total cost. While each insertion order is unique, you can find an industry-standard template here to serve as a basic outline. 

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