An online advertising network or ad network is a company that connects advertisers to web sites that want to host advertisements. The key function of an ad network is aggregation of ad space supply from publishers and matching it with advertiser demand. The phrase "ad network" by itself is media-neutral in the sense that there can be a "Television Ad Network" or a "Print Ad Network", but is increasingly used to mean "online ad network" as the effect of aggregation of publisher ad space and sale to advertisers is most commonly seen in the online space. The fundamental difference between traditional media ad networks and online ad networks is that online ad networks use a central ad server to deliver advertisements to consumers, which enables targeting, tracking and reporting of impressions in ways not possible with analog media alternatives.
This section is outdated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.
The advertising network market is a large and growing market, with Internet advertising revenues expected to grow from $135.42 bn in 2014 to $239.87 bn in 2019. This growth will result in many new players in the market, and encourage acquisitions of ad networks by larger companies that either enter the market or expand their market presence.
The inventory of online advertising space comes in many different forms, including space on desktop and mobile websites, in RSS feeds, on blogs, in instant messaging applications, mobile apps, adware, e-mails, and on other media. The dominant forms of inventory include third-party content websites, who work with advertising networks for either a share of the ad revenues or a fee, as well as search engines, mobile, and online video resources.
An advertiser can buy a run of network package, or a run of category package within the network. The advertising network serves advertisements from its central ad server, which responds to a site once a page is called. A snippet of code is called from the ad server, that represents the advertising banner.
Large publishers often sell only their remnant inventory through ad networks. Typical numbers range from 10% to 60% of total inventory being remnant and sold through advertising networks.
Smaller publishers often sell all of their inventory through ad networks. One type of ad network, known as a blind network, is such that advertisers place ads, but do not know the exact places where their ads are being placed.
Types of ad networks
There are several criteria for categorizing advertising networks. In particular, the company's business strategy, as well as the quality of the networks' traffic and volume of inventory can serve as bases for categorization.
Based on business strategy
Online advertising networks can be divided into three groups based on how they work with advertisers and publishers:
- Vertical Networks: They represent the publications in their portfolio, with full transparency for the advertiser about where their ads will run. They typically promote high quality traffic at market prices and are heavily used by brand marketers. The economic model is generally revenue share. Vertical Networks offer ROS (Run-Of-Site) advertising across specific Channels (example: Auto or Travel) or they offer site-wide advertising options, in which case they operate in a similar fashion to Publisher Representation firms.
- Blind Networks: These companies offer good pricing to direct marketers in exchange for those marketers relinquishing control over where their ads will run, though some networks offer a "site opt out" method. The network usually runs campaigns as RON or Run-Of-Network. Blind networks achieve their low pricing through large bulk buys of typically remnant inventory combined with conversion optimization and ad targeting technology.
- Targeted Networks: Sometimes called “next generation” or “2.0” ad networks, these focus on specific targeting technologies such as behavioral or contextual, that have been built into an Ad server. Targeted networks specialize in using consumer clickstream data to enhance the value of the inventory they purchase. further specialized targeted networks include social graph technologies which attempt to enhance the value of inventory using connections in social networks.