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The Evolution of the Adserver: Why Adserving Technology Is Costing Publishers Money, and What Can Be Done To Fix It

Though often overlooked, the publisher adserver is in some sense the bedrock of the modern internet. In mere fractions of a second, it processes demand from numerous buyers to determine which advertiser will be sold a given impression, and how much it will pay. When adservers choose wisely, publishers are able to maximize the advertising revenues that help them hire journalists and developers, create new content, and grow their businesses. And when adservers don’t make smart decisions… well, all of that becomes a lot more difficult.


But despite the adserver’s pivotal role in keeping publishers healthy, the technology behind it has fallen woefully out of date. Across the digital media ecosystem, new innovations seem to have come whizzing by, one after another: native advertising, viewability and soon, even virtual reality. Yet the adserver has remained fundamentally unchanged since the late 2000s. In fact, the vast majority of publishers are using technologies built prior to the rise of programmatic advertising, a category that today accounts for more than two-thirds of all U.S. display spending.


The practical reality of this neglect is that the majority of today’s adservers just aren’t very good. Some technologies refuse to accept bids from certain demand sources, cutting publishers off from brands who might otherwise pay a premium for their impressions. Others lack the forecasting tools they need to make intelligent allocation decisions. And still others are unable to handle new advertising formats, or to guarantee that a person will actually see the ads they serve. Sure, most of the adservers on the market today do a fine job of rendering ads on the page. But at a time when media companies are facing unprecedented competition from other publishers and the technology platforms that supply them with traffic, the bare minimum just isn’t enough.


In order for the adserver to remain viable, it needs to evolve into a technology capable of helping publishers maximize yield from every single impression. Ultimately, the adserver should be able to make publishers’ most difficult pricing and allocation decisions on its own, ensuring that media organizations receive the highest possible return on the content they work so hard to produce. Once these processes are intelligently automated, digital outlets will finally be free to shift their focus toward the development of new ad products and revenue streams, at a time when both are badly needed. Indeed, it’s hard to overstate how much a better adserver could do to help publishers build successful, sustainable businesses for the future.


Fortunately, a handful of new product features are starting to help media organizations dramatically improve adserver performance. With each passing month, it seems more publishers are adopting tools like dynamic allocation and viewable deals that allow them to better understand the true value of their inventory and sell their impressions accordingly. In this whitepaper, we’ll examine these solutions, as well as the major pain points that are still preventing the adserver from reaching its full potential. While publishers have for years accepted the stagnant technologies that have been made available to them, AppNexus firmly believes the adserver can and should be capable of so much more.



Five Reasons Why the adserver isn’t living up to its potential:


1. No one really knows how their adserver works.

2. Siloed demand keeps publishers from maximizing revenues.


3. Adserver forecasting tools are largely unreliable.

4. Reporting workflows are a nightmare.

5. Some adservers pose a serious threat to publisher independence.

Three Critical Facts of the adserver that publishers can access, evaluate, and improve immediately:


1. Open Dynamic Allocation


2. Forecasting


3. Viewability

Download pdf above to read the full white paper

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