An ad server is a web-based application used by publishers, ad networks, and advertisers to help with ad management, campaign management and distributing ads to both websites and applications. It provides management tools for tracking, uploading, and deploying ad campaigns. Ad serving technology can be offered as a hosted service—operating on a provider’s servers—or self-hosted—operating on internal company servers. Instead of having to visit each website where an ad is to be placed individually, ad servers automate much of the distribution process for ads and can successfully track all relevant statistics about ad impressions, clicks, and overall ad performance.
Ad serving platforms are used by advertisers, publishers, ad networks, and advertising or media buying agencies. Due to the differing needs of publishers and other third parties such as advertisers and marketers, many ad campaigns will employ unique publisher and marketer ad servers at different times. While these servers are technically similar, they differ in the type of data that is being optimized for tracking purposes. Today, most ad servers provide functions that include placement management, inventory administration, reporting, invoice management, ad tag creation and other online identifiers along with online monitoring of ad campaigns.