Most ad tech providers will try to convince you that you need an ad server, especially if you’re a high-volume ad network because that is what they are trying to sell. It is a powerful piece of software and can deliver measurable optimization to certain ad networks and other tech players, but an ad server is not the right solution for everyone in every situation.
In our 10+ years of work in the industry, we have contemplated many businesses getting an ad server even when they obviously didn’t need one. And basically, it is usually always the same reasons. So, my team and I have narrowed the list down to seven signs why you should consider an alternative to an ad server solution.
- You don’t have any connections to buy or sell traffic
An ad server gives you the tech you need to create campaigns and match publishers to advertisers with banner-to-placement conditions that you set manually. It does not give you the publishers and advertisers themselves. If you don’t already have access to adequate supply and demand partners, it doesn’t make sense for you to pay for a software solution that helps you manage those connections.
Instead, you should find a self-serve media buying platform that provides pre-set partners for trading traffic or work with an ad network to optimize your media buying needs. The ad network you partner with has the necessary connections to trade a higher volume, so it’s only they who would benefit from ad server features that enable them to easily manage their supply and demand in-house.
- You’re looking for a full-service solution
If you’re looking for a solution that will allow you to stop spending time and resources on manual ad serving, you would be better off consulting an ad agency. If you elect to use an ad server, you will get help with the software in the onboarding stage and you will enjoy a much more manageable and customizable ad serving experience than you might have had with a hybrid or outsourced solution, but you will not be able to wash your hands of manual ad serving completely.
What an ad server will do for you is optimize your return on ad spend (ROAS) with transparent analytics and customizable targeting on a self-service management platform, but you still have to invest the time and energy to manage your connections and campaigns.
- You’re not ready for complete in-housing
A white-label ad server means that you get complete ownership of the platform, allowing you to totally customize your campaigns and stop paying the middleman fees. That’s great for those who are ready to bring their ad-serving solution in-house, but for others, customization and cost-efficiency might not be a priority.
If you’re currently using a self-serve DSP or another advertising platform and you are happy with your hybrid solution, you might not be ready to bring your ad serving in-house. Outsourcing some of that responsibility to a third party might provide more short-term benefits for those who do not deal in high volume. However, networks that are prepared to handle 100% of their campaigns and connections will benefit more from managing their own customizable platform.
- You serve less than 1 million impressions per month
Ad server pricing models are typically based on the number of impressions you serve every month. Those who serve less than 10 million impressions can find basic packages, but if your volume is significantly lower, you should consider whether the cost is worth it, not to mention that the complexity of an advanced ad server is probably going to be overkill for your needs.
- You need a simple tool with only a few essential features
If you have never used an ad server, the sheer number of features and options can be overwhelming. Modern ad serving platforms frequently offer more than 500 features for targeting, analytics, optimization, conversion tracking, and overall more efficient management. While it sounds like a plus for most, some users see these features as a drawback due to the time it takes to master and begin to leverage them. If your ad trade volume does not require an advanced solution, you might want to consider a simpler tool.
However, if none of the other signs on this list apply to you and you think you’re ready for a more customizable and cost-effective solution like an ad server, you should not let the complexity scare you away. Experienced professionals can quickly learn the functions and benefit from the campaign optimization features.
- You want to buy traffic programmatically
An ad server is a perfect tool for direct media buying, but it is not a programmatic solution. If you want to buy programmatically, a demand-side platform is a better solution for your needs. You can get a white-label DSP and fully customize it to the needs of your business. With an RTB bidder at its core, a demand-side platform enables you to buy impressions automatically and in real-time.
- You don’t want to earn more
This is a rare case, but it is possible some businesses are just not ready to up their revenue. Upgrading your software solution might require extensive onboarding and training that you’re not prepared to execute. If you are comfortable with your earnings and with the level of optimization in your current ad trading operations, you might choose not to invest in growth at this time. Without motivation for growth or efficiency, there is no reason to buy an ad server.
If one or more of these signs hit home for you, it is probably not the right time for you to invest in an ad server. However, if none of these signs apply to you, it might be time to look a little deeper into the benefits of ad servers. An ad server is an alpha and omega of advertising, and it can beat any of the other ad serving platforms in terms of customization, cost-efficiency, and management tailored to the exact needs of your business.