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What is ad serving?

Online advertising, both paid search listings and banners, are constantly tracked for performance levels by third-party ad servers. Third party ad serving assists advertisers, publishers and users alike.

It is a complex online system enables these ad servers to deliver advertisements to your browser, and then reliably monitoring users behaviour associated with these ads after viewing them.

Outsourcing the task of a monitoring body to ad servers eliminates some time-consuming work that publishers and advertisers would have to otherwise do.

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Types of ad servers

There are two types of ad servers, ad servers for publishers and ad servers for advertisers.  

An advertiser ad server's task is to decide which ad to show out of their inventory, which then assists the advertiser with campaign management. The priority for a publisher ad server is to select the most topical, highest paying and best performing ads for a site and consequently maximize revenue for the publisher.

By doing this, the publishers of a website are able to keep a record of which ads are performing better than others on their site.

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How it works and whom does it benefit?

Here is an example to create a better understanding of the process, in this example we will use the as a publisher. The ads that appear on the website change constantly, based on the content of the page and the target audience.

Therefore, the site relies on a variation of sources for their advertisements. For example, if Flowers Store wanted to advertise on the page, the advertisers (Flower Store) and the publisher ( would outsource the task to publishing ad servers and advertising ad servers to serve the ads on their behalf.

The following procedure then occurs:
1. Flower Store (the advertiser) would place the ads into an ad server
2. The ad server creates 'tags' with technological instructions such as the size of an ad and placement a page
3. These 'tags' are then sent to (the publisher) with information about the ad campaign (target audience and how frequently the ad can be displayed)
4. then deposits the ads into their ad server along with the 'tags'.

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How would ad server know which ads would be of most relevance to a visitor?

The ads he has clicked on in the past, the ads his browser has been shown and his demographics most likely influence what type of ad will appear each time he visits the website. To become a member of a website, generally you have to provide basic demographics (i.e. gender, age, location and sometimes interests), and many publishers share this information with their ad servers, therefore making it easy for the ad server to intentionally target the users browser with different campaigns relevant to his age and interests. This particular user may start subtly noticing that instead of cosmetic ads, he is being shown travel or sports ads. Ad servers can also target a person's browser through their Internet Protocol address, a form of geographic targeting. For example, your browser might be exposed to advertisements for movie cinemas in your local area.. This process does not specifically target a person as such; only your browser is identified along with the demographics mentioned above.

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