In the last few weeks, we’ve had a lot of traditional advertising agencies asking us about what the benefits of utilizing an ad server are. By now, almost every publisher large and small offers some form of ad serving, so why not just use their numbers and their ad servers and save yourself the monthly commitments, ad serving fees, ad operations man hours and more?
Well, here’s a few reasons why we utilize ad servers – in particular – MediaPlex’ MOJO AdServer (we also use Microsoft Atlas for some clients, and we’ve had great experiences with TruEffect’s Truadvertiser in the past as well):
1) Real Time Optimization. Publishers lay claim to optimizing, but we actually optimize daily in the ad server, and MOJO performs automatic near real-time optimization based on conversion data.
2) De-duplication of results. Because 3rd party cookies do not collect personal data, running ads independently on ad networks creates a lot of duplication in reporting. One network may register a click on a banner ad, and then the user clicks on another ad the next day but on someone else’s network and then converts (stay with me here ). Both networks will register that as a click conversion to their network. Ad servers will de-duplicate those and actually give credit only to the last clicked on ad for credit to the conversion.
3) Path to conversion (or Engagement Mapping). Analytics are great to track everything through the conversion, but it can not show the chronological order or list of events that took place to get to that conversion, as those items take place BEFORE the visitor hits your site. With Path to Conversion reporting, once that conversion happens, the ad servers will report back on every activity that took place from first interaction to conversion. For example, if a last click conversion is registered to YouTube.com, it will then run a report and show that prior to that conversion, the user saw a banner ad on the Ad.com network, then they saw another on Specific Media’s network, then they clicked on one again at Ad.com, and then finally they clicked and converted on the YouTube.com site. Although YouTube is important because it “closed the sale”, the others are just as important because they played a role in getting the user to the last step by creating awareness and interaction.
4) Auditing. Although we haven’t had problems in years, it’s still nice to have a 3rd party audit system to ensure that publishers are delivering what they say they are delivering.
5) Creative changes. Although we never expect emergencies, we always plan for them. For example, we had a client give us a wrong phone number on an ad once and we didn’t find out about it until after 5:00 on a Friday. Because we were ad serving, we were able to switch everything out immediately. Had we not been, we would have had to wait until Monday for the sales reps to get back in town, and hope that they could do it immediately. Oh yeah, and we were serving over a billion ads a month for them – so imagine the nightmare a manual update would have been!
6) Serving large file sizes. Most users now have broadband internet, so the days of AOL dial up are few and far between. That being said, most networks still require banner sizes to be less than 35k. Ad servers allow you to deliver a 35k file size to the publishers yet serve much greater sizes through external server calls.
There are plenty more reasons – especially on the creative side of things, and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts as well… Please note, we are due for our annual technology review in the upcoming month, so I will be sure to post our results to our blog when they are finalized. For those of you that don’t know – we don’t use just one ad server, we do reviews of all of the ad servers and then determine which ones meet our clients needs best.