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7 Advantages of Using Third-Party Ad Servers for Brands & Networks

Aug 19, 20208 min read
Kate Novatska
Kate Novatska, AdTech Expert

Advertising has more facets than you could expect. The reign of Facebook and Google is no stop for advertisers to look for a custom solution, but a reason. 3rd-party ad servers are still beloved and revered by the world's leading brands, who go for them because of their latitude, transparency, and the myriad of available optimizations.

A 3rd-party ad server never gets old. It is the base of the ad serving process, which turned into a sophisticated platform with more customizable features than any other ad tech software existing on the market. A variety of possible tune-ups even scare off the unprepared, but for experienced advertising warriors, an ad server is a Holy Grail of their business.

Yet, there are still many questions on how a 3rd-party ad serving works, what it is, and what elements a 3rd-party ad server usually contains. Also, advertisers experience some troubles while choosing the proper white-label ad server tailored to their needs, as the functionality of modern servers is quite complex and diverse.

To answer all popular queries about third-party ad servers, compare these to first-party ones, and help you with the final choice, we made this piece. Let's fire away.

What is a 3rd-Party Ad Server?

A 3rd-party ad server is an ad server used by the demand side of ad serving or advertisers. The “3rd-party” in the name means that an owner of this server doesn't have direct access to the ad serving process, and only provides creatives.

Advertisers use the platform to host data regarding ads and deliver ads directly to websites and mobile apps. Besides hosting and serving ads, third-party ad servers enable you to manage and optimize advertising campaigns and get detailed reports on your ad serving activity.

First-Party vs. Third-Party Ad Server

The first-party ad server and its third-party counterpart are always intertwined. A 1st-party ad server is used by publishers or the supply side of advertising. It's called like that because of being the first link in the ad serving process. Here, website and app owners manage their placements and generate ad tags, which they later send to advertisers to match the specific placement with the particular ad creative.

Overall, the 1st-party ad server is used for placement creation, ad tag generation, and further inventory management. A 3rd-party ad server is needed for campaign & creative management, targeting, ad optimization, and analytics.

Let's take a closer look at how these two work in collaboration.

How Does Third-Party Ad Serving Work

When the user visits the website or app, the ad tag which was placed on the page sends an ad request to the 1st-party ad server, which processes the retrieved data about the user and forwards it to the 3rd-party ad server. The latter picks the right creative according to placement requirements and targeting options and sends it back to the publisher's ad server. At the latest stage, the ad is shown to the user. The whole process is almost instantaneous and takes milliseconds.

Here is an illustrative example of the classic third-party ad serving flow:

Third-party ad serving process

Today, the split between first- and third-party ad serving is almost non-existent, as advanced ad servers can do both. Network managers have access to publisher and advertiser dashboards at the same time and link placements to banners in a single interface. Thus, technically only one ad server is used to implement ad serving from both sides.

Nevertheless, ad networks can give out personal accounts with limited permissions to their advertisers, if they use white-label software. Advertisers will then see only features meant for demand and analytics related to their own campaigns. From this perspective, they'll use a 3rd-party ad server solely.

Major Elements of 3rd-Party Ad Servers

Let's review the essentials of a 3rd-party ad server for advertisers using the Epom ad server interface as an example. You can see the “Advertisers” tab of the Network Manager, where ad networks can add multiple advertisers. If you are a brand, this tab will likely contain only one advertiser — you — and a number of your campaigns.

Advertisers in the 3rd-party ad server

You can see all rules, settings, and inventory linked to this advertiser on the advertiser level. However, most of those adjustments are made on the level of campaign and banner. Here is how the campaign level looks like:

Campaigns in the 3rd-party ad server

On this level we set up targeting, capping, campaign priority, pricing, actions, and so on. These settings will be applied to all banners within the campaign.

Still, placements and creatives are linked to each other on the lowest, banner level.

Banners in a 3rd-party ad server

Aside from matching placements to banners, you adjust banner-level targeting, pricing, limits, and rules. Banner type can be a simple image, HTML code, template, or even oRTB endpoint.

Analytics in a 3rd-party ad server

An essential feature for brands and ad networks is analytics. It's close to real-time and is updated approximately every hour. General reports display all vital metrics like the number of impressions, CTR, conversions, I2C, CCR, revenue, eCPM, and some more. You can also see analytics breakdown for specific targeting parameters including geo, device, browser, and more.

There is also advanced analytics that gives you in-depth insights into your campaign performance in Epom's third-party ad server. These reports can be extremely detailed and reflect on the data set retrieved from the 1st-party ad server.

To learn more about basic 3rd-party ad server features, watch this video:

4 Benefits of 3rd-Party Ad Server for Advertisers

Aside from just managing ad campaigns & banners, advertisers may embrace advanced features. For example, Epom ad server targeting is not limited to standard parameters like geo, device, and browser. You can use any audience data received from publishers to set up custom targeting. This can be any data you wish, even a super-specific one.

Other features to consider are advanced capping, banner rules, and So let's review the benefits of a third-party ad serving tools for advertisers:

1. All-in-one Ad Serving Platform

For the record: our ad server offers 800+ features to our clients, and most of them use only 10% of all functionality. The 3rd-party ad serving platform of this kind will meet the demands of the most advanced advertisers who want to control every step of their media buying activities. An ad server is designed for running cross-platform, sophisticated ad campaigns, using a wide array of ad formats.

2. Automatic Optimization

Epom ad server provides all clients with automatic CTR, conversion, and eCPM optimization to simplify their ad operations and make the most of each campaign. Successful strategies can be saved and potentially reapplied to campaigns under the same or similar conditions later on. You can also set rules, priorities, and weights on each level to prioritize some campaigns over others and organize your banners in the way you need.

3. Pre-Defined Templates and Non-Standard Formats

Not all brands have developers to implement all their creative ideas into reality. And if your banner contains even a chunk of rich media, coding is always required.

3rd-party ad servers like Epom solve this by offering customizable rich media and video templates to the advertisers, where embed your media elements into the existing code. Also, the platform supports any non-standard format that may come across your mind, so if you want to develop anything from scratch — you can quickly deliver it to your audience as well.

4. Transparent Data Collection and Detailed Analytics

Gather any data from your publishers directly. Generate reports based on gathered information and use smart filters to see the performance of various traffic sources. If you wish, you can even integrate the ad server with a 3rd-party analytics or data management tool.

The third-party ad server enables you to run deduplicated custom reports to understand your campaign performance better and make informed decisions on further optimization. You can thereby set the right frequency cap, test different creatives, and successfully copy the targeting combos that lead to a conversion.

Epom Ad Server helps you eliminate the discrepancy in reporting and see the campaign results objectively. Read more about the ad discrepancy and how to reduce it here.

3 Benefits of 3rd-Party Ad Server for Ad Networks

An ad network is a company that acts as a middleman between publishers and advertisers. The third-party ad server helps track revenue delivered by every publisher and efficiently optimize ad campaigns to yield maximum results.

So on top of the benefits of an ad server for advertisers we've already listed, there are unique advantages of third-party ad serving tools for ad networks:

Platform Ownership

White-labeling means that you buy the technology and then use it as you wish. You become the owner of your platform without spending money on a 3rd-party ad serving solution development. This opens up unlimited opportunities for tailoring all the functionality to your business processes.

Roles & Permissions

Third-party ad servers also provide several roles and permissions with separate access for publishers and advertisers and show the most relevant metrics.

In-Depth Customization

For ad networks who seek total customization and want to expand their range of services, white labeling the ad server can be beneficial.

With Epom white label ad server, you can create your advertising platform with a personalized UI: branded emails, logos, custom code — every aspect of our ad serving solution can be tailored to your brand identity.

To sum it all up, the third-party ad server helps you manage all your video, mobile, desktop & in-app ad campaigns. Forecasting, deep targeting, automatic optimization, and real-time reporting are the main features of choosing an ad server. In the ever-changing digital environment, there's a solution to keep your cross-platform digital advertising in order.

Want to test-drive Epom Ad Server for free and feel the might of 3rd-party ad serving?

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