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How to choose the best Ad Server for my online business

By Ana Kealy

March 21, 2024

Table of Contents

What is an Ad Server and how does it work

An Ad Server is an online platform used for serving digital ads alongside content consumed by end users. The ads are shown to end users on Publisher platforms: websites, social media, mobile apps or video streaming platforms. With an Ad Server these Publishers can create ad zones on their platform and sell them to Advertisers, who will win the ad zone spot upon placing the highest bid. Therefore, the key role of Ad serving platforms is that they are needed by Publishers in order to monetize their content, Advertisers need the ad serving platform to be able to promote and sell their services via the Publisher’s audience. Therefore the ad serving platform is the middleman that can further monetize a network of Publisher and Advertiser clients.

So this is how ad monetization and Ad Servers work, in a process that happens in milliseconds: when an end user visits a site or an app that has ad zones enabled, the browser sends an ad request to the Publisher’s Ad Server to fill in an ad placement. For instance, if a Publisher has a Native ad zone, the Publisher’s Ad Server selects a relevant Native ad creative from a campaign that matches the Advertisers’ targeting. If it matches, and is the highest bid, the winning Native ad is displayed on the Publisher's ad zone for the end user to see. The ad impression, end user click or end user view is registered by the Ad Server and appears in the Advertiser’s dashboard in real-time. There are 3 kinds of monetization models:

  • Cost per thousand (CPM) refers to the cost an Advertiser pays per one thousand advertisement impressions on a web page. 
  • Cost per click (CPC) refers to the cost an Advertiser pays based on the number of times a website visitor clicks on the ad.
  • Cost per view (CPV) is for video advertising only and refers to the cost an Advertiser pays if an end user views the video ad for a certain amount of seconds.

How do Ad Servers empower Publishers, Ad Networks and Advertisers?

Here’s how Ad Servers work for the three main stakeholders in ad monetization, Publishers, Ad Networks and Advertisers: 

#1 Publishers: Publishers use Ad Servers to manage their ad placements on their various online platforms and to set the ad format for each ad zone (Banners, FPIs, Video, Native, Push Notification, Popunders, etc.), giving them full control over their ad inventory. Through an Ad Server they will also have access to statistics for each ad format and ad zone, and gain the ability to optimize ad zones in order to maximize revenues. This is known as a First-Party Ad Server, since the Publisher is supplying the inventory to sell.

#2 Advertisers: Advertisers use the Ad Server to manage and launch campaigns with the platform’s precision targeting features, and upload creatives for a range of different ad formats. They then bid for their inventory to try to win the Publisher ad zones. Advertisers can further optimize their campaigns in real-time by tweaking the targeting features, changing their bids and getting real-time data reporting to analyze metrics such as clicks and ad creative performance. They can block low-performing ad zones and also create white lists for high-performing ad zones. This is known as a Third-Party Ad Server because the Advertiser is demanding the inventory to use.

#3 Ad Networks: Ad Networks use Ad Servers as a single platform to match Publishers with Advertisers to serve different ad formats across all devices that an end user might be browsing with (Desktop, Mobile, Tablet, etc). They can also monitor Advertiser and Publisher performance from a single dashboard. This combines first and third-party Ad Servers in one single platform.

What Ad Formats should an Ad Server offer?

The most popular types of ad formats include:

  • Display ads: Banners, FPIs (or Fullpage Interstitials) and Popunders. These formats’ creatives can be static images, gifs or MP4.
  • Native: Native ads contain a static image and texts (title and description), and no CTA, looking like the editorial content on a website.
  • Push Notifications: PN ads are displayed to end users who have opted-in and subscribed to wanting to receive them.
  • Email Clicks: this ad format is email marketing based, sending emailed ads to a website’s end users who have signed up to the website’s mailing list and opted-in to receive ads.
  • Video In-Stream: a video based ad format shown to an end user before, during or at the end of watching a piece of video content, exactly like on Youtube. 
  • Video Slider: this video format slides into the screen, displaying a video ad.
  • Outstream Video: this video ad is triggered as an end user scrolls through a website.

Remember: a great Ad Server should provide IAB industry standard ad formats and, because Chrome is by far the most popular web browser, ad formats should also be fully compliant with regulations set by Google and the Better Ads Coalition.

Can I do Programmatic Advertising through an Ad Server?

Programmatic advertising is a branch of online advertising that automates the process of buying and selling online ads through several programmatic platforms. Programmatic Ad Servers enable Publishers and Advertisers to plug in their own platforms and then these softwares make decisions about when, where and to whom to display each single programmatic ad impression. A great programmatic Ad Server helps online businesses diversify and move away from the traditional dependency on direct deals or ad networks, promoting Brand exposure and a wider reach, amongst other benefits. There are two kinds of programmatic platforms:

  • SSPs: As previously explained a Publisher Ad Server is known as a first-party Ad Server, in programmatic it is referred to as a “supply-source” and Publishers use platforms called SSPs (supply-side platforms) to manage the programmatic selling of their ad inventory.
  • DSPs: We also explained that Advertisers use third-party Ad Servers, which in programmatic are referred to as a “demand source”; Advertisers use DSPs (demand-side platforms) to manage their programmatic media buying. 
  • Ad Exchanges: This is a platform where the selling and buying of ad inventory happens through RTB, generally focused on selling display, video, native and mobile ad inventory.

In programmatic advertising everything happens automatically: once the terms of an Advertising deal are locked in, a programmatic ad campaign is executed automatically. The bidding happens in milliseconds via Real-Time Bidding (RTB), which uses real-time buying and selling of ad impressions through auctions that occur in the split-second it takes for a website to load.

White-Label: can I still use my own branding if I use an Ad Server?

White-Label Ad Servers allow companies to brand the platform’s UI with their business’ logo, brand colors with primary, secondary and tertiary colors for UI buttons, labels, charts and texts. This also includes their own unique domain for ad serving. This empowers the online business to market the Ad Server as though it is their own-made technology. Plus, White-Label Ad Servers come with a set of benefits, including:

#1 Budget Saving: One of the main reasons that makes White-Label Ad Servers such an appealing solution is its ability to save a company the investment costs involved in creating an Ad Server from scratch and maintaining it long-term.

#2 Time Saving: Aside from monetary costs, there is also a significant amount of time needed in building and maintaining an in-house Ad Server. With a pre-built White-Label solution you can leave the tricky compliance issues up to the SaaS provider knowing that your Ad Serving platform is fully compliant with Industry Standards.

#3 Customizable: White-Label Ad Servers offer a range of different customizable solutions for you and your clients. For example, from the many different ad formats that EXADS offers, maybe you want to only use Video or Email, therefore Display formats are not your most immediate need.

#4 Future-Proof: EXADS’ White-Label Ad Server has a dedicated team of developers who are constantly implementing new features, new ad formats and platform optimizations to provide you with an industry leading platform that is future proofed. We make the platform grow alongside your business!

#5 Tech support: White-Label Ad Servers have dedicated tech and customer success teams devoted to helping you with any technical issues, onboard you and give you tried and tested advice on how to maximize the potential of every platform solution and feature.

EXADS’ White-Label Ad Server clients:

EXADS’ White-Label Ad Server is a versatile and robust solution designed to monetize online platforms of any kind, including websites, apps and CTV platforms. Our White-Label technology is fully customizable to suit your needs, whether you are looking to monetize one or several of your online platforms simultaneously; with our next-generation technological solutions your monetization efforts will be fully supported with top-notch data-driven solutions, whether you decide to use the EXADS infrastructure on its own, or you want to integrate your own software onto the platform using EXADS’ APIs. Continuing on are some of the client kinds that use the EXADS platform to power their business growth:

Monetize your Membership Platforms with EXADS 

For Membership Websites, like Dating sites and apps, Forums, Education sites, Fintech platforms, Gambling, or any other vertical or niche, adding new revenue streams beyond subscription models has become key. This has led many platforms to explore the possibilities of advertising, recognizing it as an opportunity to increase their bottom lines. Publishers can monetize their Membership Websites effectively with a ready-made White-Label platform like EXADS in order to save time and resources and deliver relevant and engaging ads to enhance user experience. A great White-Label Ad Server will enable your Membership Website to:

  • Streamline sales with self-service technology. 
  • Leverage your first-party data Deep targeting tools.
  • Monitor the performance of ad campaigns and zones with Robust Analytics
  • Make the most of programmatic advertising with RTB support and solutions.

Website Publisher: we help your grow your business

A Publisher is a company that owns one or more platforms with high traffic and wants to generate advertising revenue. These companies can be from various industries such as media, retail, travel and streaming services. Ad Servers allow Publishers to sell their inventory directly and they are the perfect solution for third-party cookie deprecation and for taking complete control over their advertising business. Publisher Ad Servers are self-serve platforms that allow Publishers to create an enclosed ecosystem, or “walled gardens”, over which to have full control. Advertisers can create their own accounts in it and access the Publisher’s inventory based on the criteria set by the latter. Some of the main benefits that a Publisher can extract from a Publisher Ad Server are:

  • Complete control and autonomy.
  • Fully customizable for brand protection and coherence.
  • Seamless management and use of First Party Data.
  • Authority over pricing, bidding and minimum joining budgets.

Retailers and Marketplaces: Make the most of First-Party Data

The data that e-commerce websites gather from their visitors is highly valuable and can be monetized with ads. By providing the opportunity for suppliers and other Advertisers to place ads on their digital properties, retailers not only open avenues for increased revenues but also foster stronger relationships with suppliers. This First-party Data Goldmine enables e-commerce advertising to be highly targeted, Advertisers being able to tailor their messages based on user details and behavior. When looking for an Ad Server to monetize your e-commerce platform, bear in mind that, although all ad formats can suit your website, there are two main monetization strategies that can help you and your Advertisers make the most of First Party Data with a highly targeted approach:

  • Monetizing Sponsored Listings at the top of a list of products or services on your site.
  • Monetizing Email opted-in subscribers by sending direct sponsored messages.

CTV platforms: a fast-growing advertising market

The average adult is estimated to spend 1 hour and 46 minutes per day on CTV platforms! This means that CTV advertising is highly profitable. Despite the cost associated with CTV ads due to tight ad inventory and high demand, Advertisers are willing to pay a premium for CTV because of the high level of engagement among CTV audiences. The range of advertising options on CTV is also expanding, with AVOD (Advertising-based Video on Demand), FAST (Free Ad-supported Streaming TV), and short-video channels becoming more relevant. For example, retail media networks are collaborating with CTV operators to establish a foothold in this growing market. EXADS helps you get a strong start in CTV advertising, enabling you to deliver best-in-class ad experiences, offering:

  • VAST Tag Support for seamless delivery of CTV creatives.
  • Advanced targeting options for CTV viewers and real-time advanced analytics.
  • Customized ad formats for enhanced engagement.
  • OpenRTB and Custom RTB Integrations.

Email Advertising: monetize your subscriber base

A lot of e-commerce platforms, Membership and Listings Websites & Apps, B2B and Lead Generation Companies and other platforms choose to monetize their traffic with Email ads. A great Email Ad Server will allow you to Email Advertising involves monetizing a Publisher’s newsletter lists to generate revenue with Advertiser ads. It is not only a great way to boost revenues, but it is also a strategic opportunity to deliver relevant content and promotions to the subscriber base, keeping them engaged and active. This is why it is important to work with a robust White-Label Email Ad Server in order to deliver best-in-class Email ads to your audiences integrating your own email platform if you wish. A great Email advertising strategy will help you:

  • Revenue diversification for your online business.
  • Deeply targeted ads and effective campaigns lead to higher Advertiser demand.
  • Complete control over the ad placement.
  • Flexible ad formats including affiliate promotions and dedicated email blasts.

Monetizing Mobile Apps with EXADS’ Mobile Ad Server

Because of the flexibility of EXADS Mobile White-Label Ad Server, as a Mobile or App Developer, you can build your own branded mobile Ad Server easily and swiftly. Also, ExADS provides a wide range of ad formats that are all responsive for Mobile web-based as well as in-app advertising, including Display, Native, Multiformat, Push, Video ads, Rich Media and CPC-based. And of course, you can be 100% sure that all of the ads are fully compliant with the IAB and other Industry Standards. Your Ad Server of Choice should provide you:

  • Solutions that enable you to monetize Adblock traffic.
  • Useful Advertiser tools such as Ad Refresh and Keyword targeting.
  • Ad Refresh to make the most of the end user’s time on your platform.
  • Mobile Ad Zone Customizable Statistic dashboards. 

Agencies: gain full visibility and control in Programmatic

In a highly competitive digital advertising space, advertising Agencies need a programmatic solution that helps them connect their Advertiser and Publisher base instantly, as well as being able to manage ad buying and spending efficiently. With the EXADS Ad Server’s support for OpenRTB and Custom RTB integrations, Agencies can connect to any supply or demand source, as well as getting full control and visibility of their programmatic ad spend. Of course, the ideal Programmatic Ad Server for Agencies will provide an extensive range of ad formats including Display, Video, and Native, as well as grant access to automatic bidding optimization tools.

  • Manage all your programmatic buying and selling from one platform
  • Real-time advanced statistics and easy to create and access reports
  • Wide array of RTB templates for 3rd Party Integrations
  • Advanced targeting, conversion tracking & frequency capping

Build your own Ad Network from scratch in 10 days!

An Ad Network is a platform that connects Advertisers and Publishers, the mediator between ads and websites. Starting an Ad Network brings to the table the potential for substantial growth and revenue; it requires a robust White-Label Ad Server that offers a wide range of ad formats and enables you to focus on expanding your Ad Network business and growing your client base. Whether for Desktop, mobile, in-app, CTV, or DOOH, EXADS’ extensive range of high-performing ad formats has you covered. You will also have access to the full suite of features from the get-go, including both Programmatic and direct advertising options and platform and access management options. With EXADS you can:

  • Get a custom branded Ad Network in less than 10 days.
  • Access admin tools to manage all your clients in one place.
  • Access powerful financial management features.
  • Automate operational tasks using our APIs.

Build your ideal Ad Server with EXADS APIs

Some EXADS clients prefer integrating their pre-existing software with our infrastructure, or pick some of our specific solutions to build their ideal Ad Server for complete customization. For instance, imagine that you already have an Ad Serving platform of your own choosing but want Customizable Dashboards for ultra-precise data readings of your ad zones’ performance, you could use EXADS’ Statistics APIs to integrate this very feature. So, in a nutshell, the EXADS range of APIs allow you to build your own Ad Serving platform exactly the way you want it by helping you integrate seamlessly with third-party systems and platforms. To name a few:

  • Automation APIs for the creation of campaigns, sites, and zones
  • Ad Placement API to implement custom ad formats
  • Statistics API to build the reports your business needs
  • Customize the front end of your platform with Admin Panel API


If you are looking for a versatile and easy-to-use Ad Server with plenty of customizable features and integrations to help you in your advertising journey, you have come to the right place! With EXADS you can manage and track your advertising efforts efficiently to make data-driven decisions to achieve high results, whatever the nature of your online business is. Do you want to learn more about EXADS’ comprehensive suite of features for Publishers? Get in touch with our team now and discover how to build your perfect Ad Server with EXADS!

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