In advertising, buzzwords come and go, but there are many ad ops terms sticking around that you should probably know. In this blog series, you'll find a solid outline of industry specific vocabulary, and how it applies to the digital advertising operations world. First we'll discuss ad servers, programmatic advertising and other important ad exchange terminology. In part two of the series, we'll cover native advertising, header bidding, data management platforms and much more!

Ad operations team members are often responsible for the daily management of a publisher's online ad server. The ad server is a technology platform where publishers manage their campaigns and ad inventory. At TownNews our ad server, BLOX Ad Manager, is built into the admin, but you can choose to use an alternative ad server such as Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers Small Business, DoubleClick for Publishers Premium, OpenX, OAS or AppNexus.

Within the ad server, a publisher will schedule the ad creative to run at one of a handful of delivery priority levels and against a set of targeting criteria.

The delivery priority level determines how important it is for that particular ad to reach its goals. The "Sponsorship" priority is the highest and will deliver to goal before any other ad type. Typically below sponsorship in descending order are Standard, Network and House priorities.

The targeting criteria is a set of rules that designates when the ad will deliver based on the audience, operating system, device type, geography and other options. Once your ad is scheduled, you’ll need to add a creative. Most ad servers support the following creative formats:

  • Third-party creatives are a code snippet that is typically provided by the advertiser. This code snippet is placed into the publisher's ad server and, when delivered, makes an ad call to an additional ad server.

  • HTML5 rich media ads are written in code and compiled into a creative. Since HTML5 is a universal code language it is ideal for use in animated creatives that will run across any platform or device.

  • A Flash ad is typically an animated ad in the .swf file format. Although their popularity is in decline due to lack of support across mobile and other devices, Flash ads are still used. Google provides Google Web Designer to help users transition their ads from Flash to HTML5.

  • Image ads are the most widely supported ads and will display on nearly any device or platform. Using .png, .jpg and .gif files they display a static ad or an animated .gif ad.

  • Video ads can run within the existing video content on a site. Linear video ads appear instream with video content while non-linear ads are non-video content such as text overlays.

Once the local ads are delivering in the ad server, you may begin to explore programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising is the process of buying and selling ad inventory through the use of technology and software. The software uses targeting criteria and pricing floors to select the best position and fit for an ad impression. This process is call the ad auction, where each ad that matches the targeting criteria places a bid and the ad willing to pay the highest CPM for that impression wins.

There are two sides to the programmatic ad auction, the supply side platform (SSP) and the demand side platform (DSP). The SSP is a technology platform that enables publishers to manage their available advertising impression inventory and maximize revenue from digital media. The DSP is a technology platform that allows buyers of digital advertising to manage multiple ad exchanges, SSPs and data exchange accounts through one interface, providing maximum control over the impression inventory they purchase for their marketers.

There are many rules and metrics that drive the programmatic advertising engine. A few of these key items are:

  • CPM (cost per thousand) is the industry standard for digital pricing of online display inventory. Standard uses are impression and users/visitors.

  • Block lists give you the ability to select a particular ad, advertiser or category that will not be allowed to deliver on your site.

  • Audience segments break an audience down by their demographic information, behaviors exhibited on the publisher's website and across the internet as well as their offline information.

  • Buy & sell rules typically include the pricing and other stipulations used to regulate the groupings of inventory you want to offer buyers.

  • Floors are the minimum dollar amount (typically in CPM form) that a seller is willing to accept for their inventory.

  • A standard image ad impression is considered viewable when it has appeared in a user's browser with at least 50 percent of the ad's pixels visible in the window for a continuous second.

Having an understanding of ad operations is crucial to any advertising strategy. For more insights and definitions, stay tuned for our next blog post where we'll cover other important ad ops terms such as native advertising, data management platforms and much more.

Stevie Longwith is the TownNews Ad Ops program manager.