What Is an Ad Network?
There is no doubt that the internet has revolutionized the entire advertising industry. From the companies advertising their products to the platforms that specialize in selling ad spots and consumers themselves, the entire ecosystem is transitioning to a fully digital state. Ad networks are at the center of it all because these platforms simplify the process while creating a safe environment for all stakeholders.
At lemonads, we’ve worked with some of the leading publishers and advertisers across different verticals, so we know the importance of finding a superb ad network. However, we’re also aware that the only way to find the best ad network for your next project is to know how these platforms work, which ad formats are available, and the potential price schemes at your disposal. Be careful not to confuse an ad network and an affiliate network: Affiliate Programs vs. Affiliate Networks: What is the Difference?
Below, we’ll go over the definition of an ad network, explain the different types, analyze how they work, and discuss everything you need to know about these platforms.
Defining an Advertising Network
What is an ad network?
In the most basic sense, an advertising network is an intermediary that specializes in connecting advertisers that want to promote their products with publishers who have available ad spots, or inventory if you will. In simple terms, ad networks help publishers sell their ad inventory to interested advertisers in a safe and structured way.
Ad networks have been around since the early days of the internet and they serve the same purpose as they did a couple of decades ago. That said, these platforms have implemented innovative technology that has resulted in a higher number of ad formats and pricing models. Plus, now you can find ad networks that provide virtually unlimited traffic volumes from all over the world, making them one of the most scalable ways to promote a product or monetize traffic.
How Do Ad Networks Work?
Ad network structures can vary, but these platforms are basically designed to take publishers’ content and sell it to advertisers. Networks generate revenue by taking a percentage of each sale, which can consist of a bundle or occur at the individual interaction level.
Publishers usually have to meet a minimum traffic volume and quality requirement before joining an ad network. Advertisers can sign up and purchase traffic almost without restrictions, so they can start setting up their campaign parameters and launch ads as soon as they sign up.
The features may vary, but most platforms allow advertisers to select specific targeting settings and work with multiple ad formats using different pricing models.
Types of Ad Networks
There are many types of ad networks out there, some of which serve unique niches and bring features designed for specific circumstances. With that in mind, most networks can be divided into one of four categories, which are premium, vertical, specialized, and performance ad networks.
Premium Ad Networks
As the name suggests, premium ad networks specialize in connecting top-notch publishers with leading advertisers on a global scale. This type of platform is usually suitable for large enterprises like Coca-Cola and CNN, which means that every interaction can easily cost thousands of dollars.
While most publishers and advertisers would like to reach this level, it’s important to note that premium networks tend to have strict application protocols. Needless to say, they also offer the most expensive type of traffic, so they are not ideal for small and medium-sized advertisers.
Vertical Ad Networks
A vertical ad network serves the same purpose as a regular network, except for the fact that it only serves a single niche or industry. For instance, some networks focus on connecting advertisers and publishers in technology, automotive, fashion, sports, gambling, gaming, or similar niches.
This type of network is perfect for advertisers that sell accessories or products that are only suitable for one purpose. Likewise, publishers that run niche platforms like a sports news platform, can opt for a vertical ad network to find more interested advertisers.
Specialized Ad Networks
Specialized ad networks focus on a single type of traffic or visitor. For example, you can work with a network that only offers mobile, video, native, push, or pop ads. These platforms are ideal for advertisers that only promote their services using proven formats and they help create a more seamless marketing machine thanks to the specialized traffic that’s available.
At the same time, niche publishers may have an easier time being accepted by specialized networks if they meet their requirements. Plus, they can get better value for their traffic by selling all of it to interested advertisers.
Performance Ad Networks
Sometimes referred to as affiliate networks, these platforms use performance-dependent pricing to ensure that advertisers get the most bang for their buck. This system also rewards the publishers that take the time to develop ultra-engaging content, which requires more work but also yields much better results.
What Ad Formats Can You Buy and Sell in an Ad Network?
Now that we’ve answered the question “what is an ad network?” let’s go over the ad formats you can work with.
There are dozens of different ad formats that publishers and advertisers can work with. Some networks specialize in one specific type of ad, like pop or native. Others can offer a collection of different ad formats and even feature in-house alternatives that aren’t available anywhere else.
With the above in mind, the most popular formats found in ad networks include:
Native ads became an instant hit with consumers, advertisers, and publishers because they transmit a marketing message in a direct, yet friendly way. This format allows publishers to monetize traffic while ensuring that the ads being displayed deliver value and boost user experience. Advertisers also have the ability to showcase their solutions without triggering any negative emotions in their audience.
Pop advertising is one of the oldest ad formats out there, but it remains one of the most effective because it allows for the development of large-scale creatives. Keep in mind that pop advertising is actually an umbrella term that includes pop-ups as well as pop-unders. As a general rule of thumb, pop-unders are easier to monetize and convert because they don’t interrupt users. That said, many affiliates and advertisers still find success leveraging pop-ups as well.
Push notifications can help advertisers build powerful relationships with their audiences, while also giving publishers the ability to gradually generate recurring revenue. Unlike other ad formats, push notifications should be casual and friendly, so they are extremely effective but can only be used for certain verticals.
Internet video ads have increased in popularity every year since the early 2000s and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Video ads are featured in almost all major publishing platforms and they are ideal for a variety of purposes that range from education to direct sales. Advertisers should note that video ads require a higher investment, but they can be used to tell a story and boost branding while generating more leads at the same time.
Programmatic advertising is the automated buying and selling of online advertising. This automation makes transactions efficient and more effective, streamlining the process and consolidating your digital advertising efforts in one technology platform.
Mobile and Many More
Mobile ads is an umbrella term that covers all formats designed for smartphones, tablets, and similar devices. Advertisers and publishers can also work with networks that offer a huge variety of additional ad formats, including banners, interstitials, in-page push notifications, and many more.
Pricing Models Available
In the early days of the internet, the process of buying or selling an ad spot was not very different from a billboard or TV spot. Back then, publishers simply sold their inventory at a static price and advertisers agreed to purchase these spots based on a prior agreement.
Modern ad networks implement innovative technology that allows them to provide better pricing models that are beneficial to both advertisers and publishers. There are dozens of pricing models, but the three most common ones include:
Cost-Per-Mile - CPM
Cost-per-mille is a billing model where advertisers pay for every 1000 impressions. This is the most basic pricing model because publishers receive payment for generating impressions, rather than clicks or conversions. The cost of the 1000 impressions is calculated by CPM rate by the total impressions and dividing them by one thousand.
Cost-Per-Click - CPC
Cost-per-click or CPC is a pricing model where publishers get paid for every click they generate. Advertisers can choose what occurs after the click is registered, for example, if a user gets sent to a landing page that contains the offer. Keep in mind that CPC is a type of performance marketing, which means that publishers have to generate these interactions to get paid.
Cost-Per-Acquisition - CPA
Cost-per-acquisition refers to a pricing model where publishers have to generate conversions to receive the payout. Advertisers can decide what constitutes a conversion, which can be anything from completing a registration form to requesting a quote or making a purchase. Remember, CPA can also stand for cost-per-action, but the concept remains the same.
Real-Time Bidding (RTB)
Real-time bidding is a subcategory of programmatic media buying. It refers to the practice of buying and selling ads in real-time on a per-impression basis in an instant auction. This is usually facilitated by a supply-side platform (SSP) or an ad exchange.
Ad Network Examples
As we mentioned before, publishers and advertisers can choose to partner with a huge number of different networks. However, it’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. While some networks provide general traffic and formats, others only focus on a handful of niches and ad types. To choose the best option you need to evaluate your requirements and choose a provider that can help you achieve your goals as quickly as possible.
Some of the most popular ad networks out there include, but are not limited to:
- Google Display Network
- Bing Ads
- Rocket Fuel
Ready to Select the Best Ad Network? Let lemonads Take Care of Your CPA Offer
The ad network you choose will directly affect the results you get from your efforts. Whether you want to promote your offer or monetize your traffic, take the time to find the network that gives you the highest chances of success. Just make sure to review your requirements, evaluate the goals you want to achieve, and choose a platform that provides stellar service.
If you’re ready to start working with your ad network, you’ll need to find a solid partner through an Affiliate Program. Whether you’re looking to find the best affiliates or work with world-class advertisers, lemonads is here to help. To learn more about launching or finding an awesome CPA offer, contact us today and our team will be glad to help.
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