Server-Side Ad Insertion – The Primer For Publishers

Updated on: December 16, 2023
"We predict that $2.54 billion will be spent on targeted, addressable TV ads in the US this year."

We all know that there has been an exponential growth in programmatic video advertising, thanks to the rise of mobile devices and affordable internet. This means you’re leaving the money on the table if you haven’t used a video monetization service. On the other hand, ad-blocking users are increasing in numbers. Now, both publishers and video programming creators are forced to find a sweet spot to run video ads without hampering user experience. That’s where server-side ad insertion comes in. 

General web and mobile publishers can deliver a better user experience by utilizing proper setup and optimization techniques including server-side auctions, bidder optimization, dynamic timeout, network latency optimization, etc. For linear and on-demand video programmers, server-side ad insertion offers a promising workaround by allowing them to provide high-quality consumer experience while monetizing the content.

“We predict that $2.54 billion will be spent on targeted, addressable TV ads in the US this year.”


What is Server-side Ad Insertion?

Server-side-ad-insertion (SSAI), also known as ad stitching or dynamic ad insertion is a technique that allows publishers to stitch their video ad with the content at the CMS level instead of on the browser level. The technology has emerged as a key solution that assists companies in streamlining and monetizing their ad content simultaneously with alleviating ad blocks, irrespective of platforms whether mobile, desktop, tablets, OTT, etc.

SSAI has appeared as an effective way for publishers to get content and ads delivered together across all screen in a non-intrusive way. If you would like to utilize server-side insertion, it is important for you to familiarize yourself with SSAI. Otherwise, you’ll end up conflating SSAI with the client-side-ad-insertion method. As the name implies, the client-side ad insertion technique fetches an ad (typically, in milliseconds) once the users hit the play button. 

Server-side-ad-insertion stitches ads into the content in a single pod, as a single deliverable before it is delivered on the device or browser. The ad handling logic is defined at the server level itself hence, the ads carefully bypass the ad blockers.

Server-side Ad Insertion

SSAI ad serving experience is quite similar to that of a TV ad where an ad request is made during the scheduled break. Once this request is made, the ad servers stitch the ads into the video stream prior to sending the video. This means that the adblockers can’t interpret this single delivery stream and deciphers it as content. SSAI supports personalization and geo-targeting for video content. However, it does not support re-targeting

How does SSAI work for Publishers?

  •     Before an ad is displayed, the streaming server requests the ad server as to which video ad should be displayed.
  •     The ad server looks upon this request, searches through exchanges, and comes up with an appropriate video-ad template.
  •     This compatible streaming server that had asked the ad server for video ads will process this template, stitching the ad in the content.
  •     The video-ads and content are then delivered to the user as a single stream.

What Devices Can Support SSAI?

SSAI supported content can be accessed across all devices like the web or applications like desktop, mobile, and connected TV devices.

How is SSAI different from traditional client-side-ad-insertion technology?

With the end-users increasingly utilizing ad blockers to avoid online ads, especially browser plugins to block ads, it prevents ads from being displayed on the browser. The client-side ad insertion works at the browser or device level causing a huge loss to publishers due to ad blockers.

The client-side ad insertion switches between ads and the main content preceded by the loading indicator.

This limits the video playing capability and reduces the quality of service. Due to this, there is a high chance of early user dropout, a negative impact on overall CPM, and ad completion rate. The traditional method caused an additional overhead and burden on publishers due to its negative effect on streaming solutions. Thankfully, SSAI is at the publishers’ rescue.

What are the Benefits of SSAI for Publishers?

  • SSAI helps in bypassing ad blockers allowing the video ads to display with their full potential.
  • It not only blocks ads but also helps in offering targeted and relevant ad content. There is a session management tool in SSAI technology that creates a unique session of a particular user on a particular device. This way, publishers can utilize user data and ensure personalization for the user.
  • SSAI purely concentrates on user experience and has tools that allow users to experience personalized ads without any trouble. In all, SSAI provides an undisrupted viewing experience.
  • It improves the quality of video ad service.
  • Ads are perfectly framed and stitched so that they do not hinder the view.
  • SSAI makes complex video ad scheduling scenarios easier to control. 
  • Better viewer retention. 

What’s Next?

Server-side ad insertion is not only the latest innovation for publishers but is a reliable technique they need to monetize video content. As more and more users expect relevant and seamless content, it is beneficial for linear programmers to try SSAI technology. That being said, it has its own drawbacks. For instance, most of the performance/viewability measurements happen on the client-side and it becomes harder for advertisers to measure it on the server-side. 

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