Ad Networks for Publishers & Advertisers: Efficient Ad Buying & Selling

Apurva Pathak | October 20, 2022 | 363 views | Read Time : 11:00 min

Publishers & Advertisers
When print publishers transitioned to online publishing, they were keen to find a way to generate revenue. Their revenue model in the print world was advertising, so they needed to monetize their content online. Display ads were a great start for them. They sold their advertising space to interested advertisers directly. Even then, there would always be some ad inventory that remained unsold. The need of the hour was a platform that could help them sell this inventory. That is when ad networks for publishers and advertisers came into the picture. Let us take a deeper look into how ad networks are helping both publishers and advertisers optimize their selling and buying processes.

Ad Networks: Simplifying Ad Buying and Selling

An ad network is a technology-backed platform that acts as an intermediary between a group of publishers who want to sell their ads and advertisers interested in buying them.

Ad networks for publishers and advertisers first appeared in the mid-nineties as the earliest advertising technology to support online advertising. They helped advertisers buy ad space across multiple publishing platforms.

The primary purpose of an ad network was to collect unsold ads from different publishers and put them up for offer to advertisers at a lower price than what a direct sale would cost. This kind of ad inventory was mostly referred to as remnant, non-premium ads that publishers struggled to sell directly.

Today, ad networks for publishers focus on offering advertisers exclusive ad deals at premium prices. They pre-buy inventory from different publishers and then resell it to advertisers at premium prices to help advertisers get the impressions they expect.

Types of Ad Networks

Based on your audience, industry, topics, and formats, you have four main types of ad networks to choose from:
  • Inventory-specific networks: Such networks have ads of a specific type, such as mobile or video.
  • Vertical advertising networks: These are ad networks that focus on a specific topic, such as fashion, automobiles, or business.
  • Premium networks: These are the networks that offer premium inventory, mostly from popular publishers.
  • Targeted networks: These networks offer specific targeting capabilities through a built-in ad server.

How do Ad Networks Work?

Ad networks for publishers and advertisers keep on evolving with technological advancements. To understand how the best ads network works, here are the dynamic steps they follow to benefit publishers and advertisers:
  • Ad networks compile multiple publishers with available ad inventory.
  • Advertisers create campaigns using the ad network’s campaign panel, keeping in mind their budget, target audience, and any other special attributes.
  • The publishers install relevant ad network tags on their websites.
  • When there is a match between an ad campaign set by an advertiser and the publisher’s ad inventory, ad information is sent to the publisher. The ad network provider gets a share of the ad revenue generated from the campaign or by selling the inventory at a higher price than the publisher.
  • Using the ad network’s campaign panel, the advertiser tracks and manages the ad’s performance.

Ad Networks in Programmatic Advertising

Ad networks for publishers and advertisers are a part of programmatic advertising, which is the process of automatically buying and selling digital advertising space. In this space, demand-side platforms (which help advertisers) and supply-side platforms (which help publishers) streamline the buying and selling process through real-time bidding (RTB).

Businesses and enterprises rely on programmatic advertising for their digital advertising needs because publishers are adopting native ads on their websites. Thanks to native ads, ad blockers don’t affect advertising, and marketers can optimize and improve their ads with programmatic techniques for campaign success. It's no surprise that programmatic digital display ad spending is expected to increase by 25.8% this year (Source: Brand Equity).

In conjugation with ad networks, an ad exchange connects DSPs and SSPs autonomously. An ad exchange came into the picture in 2005 when ad networks were not enough to solve the cumbersome problem publishers were facing ─ selling unsold ad space. Automation in the open marketplace for buying and selling digital ads was the solution. An ad exchange offers a streamlined platform for advertisers, publishers, ad networks, and other parties to connect their ad serving technologies for efficiency.

Ad Network and Ad Exchange: What is the Difference?

In the programmatic advertising ecosystem, the ad network and the ad exchange are two important components that are often mistaken to be the same because of their role in media buying. Let us take a look at the factors that separate the two.


Attribute Ad Network Ad Exchange
Function Intermediary between publishers and advertisers Open marketplace for everyone
Identity Company Technology
Key Users Publishers, advertisers and agencies Publishers, advertisers, agencies, ad networks, DSPs, SSPs and ATDs
Important Characteristic Pre-segmented ads for particular audience. Promotes bulk buying and selling. Pool of various types of ad inventory. Based on an impression-per-impression trade
Ad Quality Top-tier ad inventory, often sold for the first time All available inventory on sale including remnant ad slots
Optimization Time consuming Optimization possible on-the-go
Cost Stable and determined by the ad network Dynamic pricing based on real-time bidding by advertisers
Impact on Advertiser Ad prices are higher Advertisers can define the pricing
Impact on Publisher Low control over inventory pricing and optimization More control over value per impression
Buyer/Seller Information Advertisers are unaware of the placement of their ads
Publishers don’t know who the advertisers are
Both advertisers and publishers have each other’s information

Why Advertisers and Publishers Rely on Ad Networks?

  • A Wider Range of Options
With the help of top ad networks, advertisers and publishers can buy or sell more ad space. As a part of monetization strategies for publishers, they can rapidly increase their revenue through premium or remnant inventory because ad networks bring them the highest paying bids. Advertisers, on the other hand, can easily find any type of ad inventory that matches their budget for ad publishing.
  • Higher Return on Investment
Top ad networks bring in more revenue from advertising. The better the quality of ads, the higher the revenue for advertisers because they get precisely matched with their targeting needs and they can choose the most profitable deals.
  • Increased Efficiency
Automation in matching publishers and advertisers is the biggest advantage of advertising networks. It saves the time of manually looking for suitable deals or favorable pricing. The best publishers that bring the best impressions on ads can easily be approached. Publishers can get their inventory sold for the best price thanks to digital advertising networks.

Features of an Ideal Ad Network for Publishers & Advertisers

Here is a list of features you can refer to while choosing an ad network that caters to your needs:
  • Size: The size of the advertising network matters because it facilitates a steady traffic. The more traffic it can deliver, the higher your ROI will be.
  • Quality: Identify the quality of the inventory that an ad network offers. It should match the kind of inventory you need.
  • Audience Targeting: Your ad network should support different audience targeting options so that ad campaigns work perfectly well.
  • Format Support: Your ad network should support different formats like responsive, call-only, animated GIF or simple banners so you can diversify into different formats without any hassles.
  • Reliability: Depending on your requirements, ensure that the network doesn’t go down and provides consistent service so your business remains unaffected. The interface should also be easy to use, clean, and rich with data to help your marketing team optimize their personalization efforts.

CTV Streaming Platform Used PubMatic to Bump its Revenue by 400%

Future Today, a premium CTV streaming platform, used PubMatic’s platform to drive its ad revenue. PubMatic helped Future Today partner with a leading CTV DSP and achieve a lucrative private marketplace (PMP) agreement to create incremental demand through direct integration and optimized engagement.

“PubMatic has been one of Future Today's fastest growing demand partners in the last 6 months. The entire team has been a pleasure to work with and they genuinely understand the value of CTV in the market.” – Katya Shkolnik, Head of Partnerships, Future Today Inc.

Key Takeaways

Display, native, and banner advertising campaigns are critical for marketers like you to scale your business, so understanding how and what an ad network for publishers and advertisers does is important to creating the best, most effective advertising campaigns that bear results.

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