Ad network

What is an Ad Network

An ad network is an intermediary connecting digital advertisers with publishers, facilitating the buying and selling of valuable advertising space.

If you are an advertiser, then you can use ad networks to reach a broader audience by acquiring ad space on various websites and apps within their network. Publishers, on the other hand, can leverage ad networks to monetize their digital assets by displaying ads on behalf of advertisers.

Importantly, ad networks operate as aggregators, streamlining the ad placement process, especially for bulk purchases of premium ad space.

Ad network vs. ad exchange

Next, it’s important to distinguish the difference in meaning between an ad network and an ad exchange. Importantly, ad networks act as intermediaries connecting advertisers with publishers in a curated environment, managing direct relationships and transactions.

Ad exchanges, meanwhile, operate as decentralized platforms. They facilitate automated real-time auctions for ad impressions, providing an open and automated marketplace with a broad range of advertising inventory.


Ad networkAd exchange
Business typeA company/organizationA software platform
Business modelCentralizedDecentralized
PricingNon-transparent, based on closed negotiationsTransparent, based on open bidding
InventoryPremium, large supply of inventoryRemaining unsold inventory

Interestingly, a historical link and overlap exist between these two models. In fact, the evolution of ad exchanges arose as a result of the leftover ad inventory on ad networks.

While ad networks exploded in the late 90s and early 2000s to route ad orders between publishers and advertisers, publishers were often forced to sell any unsold inventory at a lower price. To tackle this problem, ad exchanges introduced an alternative platform for publishers to sell their remaining inventory based on real-time bidding among multiple advertisers.

Related topics: Ad Exchange, ARPU, CPM, CPS, eCPM

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