What Is an Ad Network?

What Are Advertising Networks?

The term “Advertisement Network” traditionally has been used to refer to outlets that produce and distribute ads for radio, television, billboards, and magazines. As the internet gains more prominence, the term “ad network” has become more and more associated with online formats.

An advertising network is basically a company that acts as the middle man between advertisers and websites that have real estate available for advertising. By actively maintaining a data base of advertisement opportunities, advertising hosts are able to leverage these connections as a way to provide products and services to companies seeking online advertising space.

In the world of online advertisement networks, there are several avenues of advertising that a company can use, from banner ads, to RSS feeds, pop-up windows, flash based ads, and more. Even the video advertisements that come on before a video plays online are opportunities that advertisement networks frequently utilize. You’ll notice this particularly on mass video upload sites like YouTube, Twitch, and DailyMotion. Most recently, advertisement networks have begun to find a great deal of value in offering banner space on email campaigns as well as many other email based products. Always growing, the online advertising is a multibillion dollar a year industry that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Between the developer and publisher payments, not to mention the traffic that media buyers generate from an advertising network, this is widely believed to be a healthy industry that yields results and brings profit to every party involved.

The greatest asset to advertisement networks continues to be third-party websites and blogs. These third-party sites benefit from a relationship with advertisement networks because they either take a cut of the advertisement revenues or they charge a straightforward fee. Popular websites and blogs have power in this situation because they generate high amounts of traffic, and as a result, advertisers have a higher probability of attracting new customers and making more sales.

Since bigger publishers who get a great deal of traffic are more visible, they typically work with advertisers directly. However, often times they’ll sell their unused space (or remnant inventory) to advertisement networks. Reports have shown that anywhere between 10%-60% of a large publisher’s advertisement space becomes considered remnant inventory, which more often than not winds up being sold to advertisement networks in order to optimize the space and drive up advertisement revenue.

Smaller publishers do not have as much leverage as their larger counterparts, so they are typically in a position where they need to sell all of their ad space to an advertisement network. This isn’t a bad thing, however, as it gives small publishers an opportunity to begin generating some revenue.

Some of the largest advertising networks come from big search engine based entities such as Google AdSense, Google AdWords, Yahoo! Advertising Network, Microsoft Advertising adCenter, and Microsoft Ad Network. Beyond these mega-brands are smaller companies that are also worth their weight in gold such as PocketCents, Clicksor, AdBrite, Bidvertiser, Chitika, TribalFusion, Advertising.com, Vibrant, ValueClick Media, ContextWeb, Claxon, Clickcent, DynamicOxygen, EpicDirect, Casale, BurstMedia, Black Label Ads, AdBull, InfoLinks, Kontera, and many more.

Within the spectrum of advertisement networks, there are three main advertisement network categories.

Blind Networks: These types of networks ask media buyers to give up their control of where their advertisements will be displayed within a network. In return they will have lower costs than that of a targeted network.

Vertical Networks: With an emphasis on revenue share, high quality traffic, and transparency for the media buyer as to where their advertisements are run, Vertical Networks usually run off of a Run-of-Site campaign and are more expensive than that of a blind network.

Targeted Networks: For the most targeted and specific advertisement campaigns, targeted campaigns are the answer. Often times referred to as the next generation of advertisement networks, target networks focus on contextual and behavioral activity in order to dictate when and where an advertiser’s ads are run within a network. These networks are sometimes reffered to as demand-side-platforms or supply-side-platform.

Through the use of advertising networks, advertisers have the ability to reach out to a wide audience by utilizing products and services. The two main products within these types of ad networks are:

Run-of-Category: an advertisement product that allows for a banner to show up at any point within a category on an affiliated website. This is far more versatile and focused than a run-of-site which allows banners to make an appearance at random on any page on a given website.

Run-of-Network: a form of advertising that applies an ad campaign to a variety of sites within a network, though the ability to choose specific sites does not exist. Since this does not give an advertiser the ability to choose a specific audience, Run-of-Network advertising is usually a cheaper option than Run-of-Category advertising.

Run-of-Category and Run-of-Network advertisement campaigns are typically the two main options available to a media buyer. It’s a common misconception that when using advertisement networks, media buyers can purchase advertisement space on a single website which is known as a site-specific campaign. Though there are ways that advertisers can invest in site-specific campaigns, most advertisements networks do not offer such services.