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What Makes the Best Ad Servers for Publishers? 5 Non-Obvious Factors to Keep in Mind

Feb 28, 20248 min read
Stepan Krokhmal
Stepan Krokhmal, AdTech Writer

An ad server for publishers is a tool to manage their website/app inventory and connect their placement with the ads of their demand partners. But is that all there is to it? Spoiler alert: no🌚

An ad server has come a long way since the early 10’s, and the market is now overflown with options for interested publishers. Which one to choose for brand safety? Specifically, what are the features to look out for? Which of them turns a simply good product into an ultimate publisher’s solution?

In this article, we’ll reveal five non-obvious factors to look at while choosing the publisher’s ad server!

Factor #1. Uptime in Publisher Ad Server

Let’s start with the heavy hitters.

What is ad server uptime? Uptime is the time that an ad server functions without interruptions. The ideal percentage is 100%, meaning that there were no downtimes or errors during the ad server functioning.

Ad server downtimes refer to the periods when the ad server is unavailable, e.g., maintenance downtime. While downtime, even for an hour, doesn’t sound so good for digital brand safety, in reality, 100% uptime is a utopia.

Uptime is important as it evaluates the level of success provided by platforms like a mobile ad server for publishers in real time. This metric shows the uninterrupted performance of an ad server and quantifies its value for the publisher. You can include uptime or downtime ratios in your service level agreement (SLA) or another real-time service contract.

If the ad server fails to perform, the ad placements won't be shown on your website, which will, in turn, result in a drop in online ad revenue for both the advertiser’s and publisher’s ad management.

Obviously, the more websites or domains you plan to add to your publisher ad server, the higher the uptime percentage you should expect.

How do you calculate the ad server uptime?

The Uptime is calculated by dividing the number of hours that the ad serving system (ad server) is functioning during a certain period by the number of hours per year and multiplying it by 100.

Number of hours functioning without interruption /number of hours per year * 100 = Uptime Percentage

Uptime percentage Epom ad server

Epom’s software has had zero downtimes for the last 2 years in a row, so we guarantee some of the best (99.99%) uptime to our ad servers for publishers.

Factor #2. IP Whitelisting in Publisher’s Ad Server Account

IP whitelisting in the ad server account enables publishers to create lists of trustworthy IP addresses that users can utilize to access the ad server account. IP whitelist is an additional security feature designed to control and limit access to trusted users only.

IP whitelisting can be set via the Epom Ad Server Support team or directly in the publisher account.

Whitelisting is an optional measure for online publishers that will help you gain total control over your ad account. Once enabled, IP Whitelist will deny access to any addresses not included in the list by default.

For instance, here's how to set up IP Whitelisting in your Epom ad server account:

IP whitelisting Epom ad server

Okay, but why is this a feature to look out for when searching an ad server for a publisher?

The main reason is digital brand safety. You can easily prevent your former employees from accessing the ad server and keep away unauthorized users from having your ad server credentials (login and password). It's a free ad server option for both online publishers and advertisers.

Factor # 3. Programmatic Integration

Unmonetized traffic – two words that can make both publishers and advertisers shake their heads in despair.

Now, there are two major features that can both facilitate brand safety and deal with remnant traffic by utilizing the power of programmatic.

Firstly, we have SSP module integration. This one is pretty self-explanatory: the publisher ad server takes the role of an SSP in a programmatic auction.

For example, Epom’s solution allows connecting a DSP endpoint to the ad server, thus selling unpurchased traffic (remnants) programmatically via RTB.

The second is straight-up using a white-label DSP in combination with publisher ad servers. What’s the point? Well, if you’re a big publisher that wants to keep the benefits of selling traffic directly but with the desire to make the process fast and automatized – WL DSP + WL ad server is your choice.

Not many market solutions integrate SSP modules, let alone offer a DSP bundle (Epom does, of course), but combining direct & programmatic for publishers means 100% (or at least close to that) fill rates and higher demand variety.

Benefits of SSP module and DSP bundle

Factor # 4. TAG Certification for Brand Safety

According to a White Ops study, advertisers lost $6.5 billion in 2017 to bot-generated, invalid traffic. TAG, an association of ad-industry trade groups, launched its certification programs for publishers to conquer the still prevalent issue of malware in the digital advertising supply chain.

TAG certification is a rigorous process, which often requires a financial investment from publishers and takes time, commitment, and action to complete. But whether you like it or not, TAG certification is now the bread and butter of ad servers for publishers.

That’s why, to reinforce their standing as good actors, suppliers are increasingly registering to become TAG-certified and prove their compliance with the new advertising standards.

Basically, TAG has a mission to cover four major digital advertising and brand safety issues:

  • Eliminate fraudulent traffic program was designed to ensure real people and payments see ad impressions are going to legitimate companies.
  • Combat malware aims at shutting down malware distributors and participating in a first-of-its-kind sharing hub to warn companies of malware attacks, with law enforcement to support investigations and prosecution of criminal activity.
  • Fight internet piracy certification helps all ad digital industry members maintain brand safety. It eliminates the reputational risk of ad placement on publisher websites with pirated or restricted content and counterfeit products.
  • Promote transparency & gain a better understanding of the digital advertising supply chain and the challenges that threaten its continued success.
TAG certified regulations

As a publisher, you need to make sure the company you're partnering with is heading towards third-party assurance of their full transparency.

How do you check if the company has a TAG-registry status?

  1. Go to the official TAG website
  2. Type the name of the company in the search box.
  3. See its status in the results.

Factor # 5. Prioritization in Publisher Ad Server Advertising

When you’re a big publisher, it gets difficult to predict where each ad placement goes. Ad management is a widespread and well-known problem, so the developers of almost every publisher’s ad server have added frequency capping – a regulator of how many times the ad is shown to a unique user during a specific period of time.

But there are other ways to set up prioritization sequences. Let’s quickly glide through each:

  • Banner Display Prioritization
    This one is a simplified term for multiple filters that prioritize which banner to show whenever the placement is requested.
  • Campaign Rules & Automatic Linking
    Both of these work based on labels (categories).

Rules - configures ad serving setup with multiple conditions, managed by network supervisor, can work dynamically with pre-existing placements;

Auto-linking - checks if labels are related, managed by anyone, and works only for newly created placements;

Campaign rules & Inventory rules
  • Campaign Manual Weighting
    This feature works similarly to frequency capping but is a more permanent parameter. The publisher sets the weight value for a campaign/banner, changing the likelihood of the banner's appearance.
  • Waterfalls & Daisy Chaining
    This feature is a logical extension of the previous one. Daisy chaining organizes the sequence of ads (in a specific order/range) so that when an ad reaches the limit, the next ad is shown.

Which Ad Server to Choose for Brand Safety?

Ask 1000 people: “What is brand safety?” and you’ll get a million answers.
Ask 1000 people: “What is the most feature-rich ad server?” and you’ll only get one.

Irony aside, the Epom ad server has all the above features and more.

For those who still wish to continue their search for a publisher’s ad server, do bear in mind the factors we’ve talked about today. For others – Epom is ready to provide you with customizable pricing plans and quick onboarding!

Become the master of both direct and programmatic media buying with the Epom ad server!

Try for free!

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