by Jeff Wood
While many publishers and marketers considered ad serving a commodity a few years ago, this is no longer true in today's highly competitive online ad market. If an ad server could boost your revenue by 30 percent without serving one additional impression, would you still consider that technology to be a commodity? Not likely.
Next-generation ad servers, designed to offer a comprehensive toolkit of optimization strategies to improve revenue, are now considered assets rather than commodities.
All ad servers are not created equal. Many claim to help improve revenues, but it's not enough for providers to simply throw their technology out there and hope for the best. Finding a solution that incorporates a multitiered revenue-management strategy is the key to success.
At a minimum, your online ad technology provider should have efficient processes in place and offer customized implementation plans, strategic customer support, comprehensive training, documentation, and Webinars designed to communicate the latest product news and best practices to leverage the technology and improve ROI.
Above all, ad management technology must increase online ad sales through unique revenue management capabilities such as the following:
> Inventory management and forecasting. An ad server should provide accurate real-time inventory management and forecasting. By accurately predicting available inventory, you can prevent undelivered premium impressions and avoid under-delivering campaigns for key advertisers. Focus on ad servers that can forecast the future using any period from the past, taking into account how a specific day of the week compares to that same day from a previous week. Combined with a solution that provides a reservation system for your sales team, you can use these features to raise your overall CPM rates.
> Optimization. With proper optimization, an ad server can make the best revenue-maximizing decision for every ad impression served. Today's publishers have national and local sales teams, schedule-based and performance-based campaigns, promotions, etc. - and you should be able to manage all these initiatives together while ensuring each ad request is fulfilled exactly as your strategy requires, rather than just getting it right part of the time.
Your ad server should also allow you to optimize per creative and per campaign by segmentation, and even to raise click-through rates on schedule-based campaigns by delivering them where they perform better. You should be able to prioritize performance-based campaigns across sites, areas, and channels without interfering with impression-based campaign goals. You should also be able to manage exact inventory splits with your affiliates and easily control share of voice promotional areas.
>Emerging media. Today's Web users are turning to such trendy media as photocasts, podcasts, RSS feeds, blog sites, streaming audio/video, and mobile devices. As a result, any next-generation ad-serving solution should make it easy for you to deliver any digital content to any medium. By doing so, advertisers are often able to repurpose their existing creatives across multiple platforms, extending their available ad inventory and creating new avenues of revenue opportunity. These should all be packaged, sold, and delivered through a single solution.
> Ease of integration. Today's ad server must also integrate well with existing or third-party solutions. Many organizations have existing systems built to manage offline advertising, and they now want to eliminate any duplication of effort. It must be easy to pass information in and out of the ad server in an automated way.
By working with an ad server that has the above features and services, you can ensure your online ad management program is a strategic asset critical to acquiring and retaining valuable customers as well as increasing your revenue and yield.
Jeff Wood is vice president of sales with Accipiter. (firstname.lastname@example.org)