Ad Platform

What Is an Ad Platform?

An ad platform is a technology for monetizing online traffic. In most cases, ad platforms serve as the broker or intermediary between the digital publisher and the advertiser. Platform providers offer the tools that businesses use to purchase advertising that is delivered on websites and mobile apps.

The term “ad platform” is a generic one that can refer to demand-side platforms (DSPs), ad exchanges, or ad networks, each of which offers its own differentiating features. A few of the most well-known ad platforms include Google, Facebook, and Instagram, but hundreds of smaller companies also serve the independent publishing market.

Online publishers will often use ad platforms in tandem with ad managers. Even though it’s very common for publishers to sell their own advertising via in-house sales reps, it’s not always easy to fill every spot. Ad platforms serve a unique role by filling remnant inventory on publishers’ websites so revenue is maximized and nothing goes unsold.

Each ad platform has its own unique way of monetizing traffic to increase revenue. Companies like Google rely on the latest advertising technologies. Some platforms allow advertisers to create and manage their own campaigns, while others take a more hands-on approach.

One thing that almost all ad platforms have in common is data. The ad platform is where the publisher and the advertiser turn to view data on impressions, click-through rates, and conversions. The ad platform tracks that data and provides it to the publisher to share.

The ad platform is also where the publisher or the advertiser set campaign spending limits. Publishers can usually choose between the cost-per-impression (CPM) or cost-per-click (CPC) model.

How to Choose an Ad Platform

When deciding which ad platform to choose, most publishers will look at how much the platform costs and how ads are managed. Platforms with ad management panels give publishers the ability to take a hands-off approach to selling and managing display advertising. With self-serve tools, publishers give advertising clients a way to create ads and manage accounts by themselves. Advertisers can even pay for their campaigns through self-serve portals.

Of course, there is a downside to self-serve advertising, as well. Without any interaction between sales reps and clients, clients might not be aware of all the advertising opportunities the publication offers. Upselling and cross-selling opportunities decrease without sales reps, which is something to keep in mind.

The best ad platform to use is the one that generates the greatest return on investment (ROI) for the publisher. That means publishers are making as much profit as possible by selling ads, and that the technology itself has a user-friendly interface that advertisers and publishers actually want to use.

Although Google, Facebook, and the like are typically lumped together as top ad platforms, the reality is that each of these platforms is very different. For example, Google Adwords is a contextual ad platform. Advertisers can pay to display short ads, offerings, listings, and video content through Google Ads. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer a different value proposition for advertisers. These are all social media ad platforms. Social media ad platforms are widely used, primarily because they have multiple targeting options and bid sets. However, social media ad platforms aren’t what local news publishers are relying on to fill their unsold inventory.

Local news publishers will typically rely on ad managers and ad platforms designed specifically for their industry. Because they often sell directly to business advertisers, local news publishers need ad platforms with abundant reporting capabilities and customization options. (You can find a list of the best native ad platforms for digital news publishers, here.)

Are you interested in learning even more about how to choose the right ad platform for your publication? Let’s chat.