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Why the Ad Server is Powering Smarter, Sleeker Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) Campaigns

The publisher ad server has gone through multiple evolutions since it first arrived in 1995. Originally acting as a storage and delivery mechanism for online advertising, it has grown beyond its primary functions and now offers an advanced interface for ad management, with smart and versatile features that add huge value to digital channels like digital out of home (DOOH). For DOOH publishers, it’s the next phase of its evolution that holds the biggest opportunity yet.

DOOH is thriving, with a global market value of $7.3 billion last year, and it is expected to reach $13.1 million by 2028. Developing automation within the channel, and the increased adoption of audience-based delivery and programmatic DOOH have enabled publishers to improve access for buyers and drive new, additional revenue. 

The latest functionalities of the ad server in DOOH include flexible yield optimization across direct and programmatic campaigns, efficient decision-making, and streamlined audience activation. By embracing these options, publishers can unlock greater revenue-driving potential from digital inventory. 

The evolution of the ad server

Almost three decades ago, the rise of ad servers was driven by the need for intelligent tech to support display advertising’s growth. In particular, publishers wanted a way to allow data-driven ad targeting for specific audiences; at the user, demographic, and location levels. Mastered by prominent players — especially the Google Ad Manager Platform — this unique use case has become the de facto definition for an ad server. 

Another important factor responsible for the growth of this technology is how fast the ecosystem has progressed. As the shift from in-person, IO-based negotiations to programmatic DOOH trading came about, new softwares and technologies emerged, including demand and supply-side platforms (DSPs and SSPs), as well as varied trading methods. Over the past few years, publishers have subsequently focused heavily on maximizing revenue from all digital inventory and, more recently, improving availability across SSPs via yield optimization solutions like header bidding. 

Amid this rapid change, the ad server has remained vital, and its own development hasn’t stalled. In sync with the growing requirement for diverse connections to demand partners and agile advertising setups, the DOOH ad server has moved forward at pace. For publishers looking to dial-up monetization effectiveness and find the best path to stronger CPMs, the ad server is now offering them the best tool for the job and giving them a greater degree of control.

Putting publishers in charge of revenue 

High on the list of the benefits of an ad server is holistic ad management.

By enabling publishers to consolidate direct-sold and programmatic campaigns under one roof, they stand to gain full visibility of every supply opportunity and determine how their DOOH screens can be monetized using a host of controls, monitoring abilities, and revenue streams. 

  • A complete configuration menu  

From the control viewpoint, applying defined parameters means media owners can hit the ‘set and forget’ button, without losing their grip on inventory. After establishing rules such as which line items to prioritize, minimum CPMs, and preferred deal partners, they can use intelligent algorithms to fuel decisions about which options will best meet specific objectives. With selections automatically put into action, they can also save vital resources that are too frequently absorbed by manual scheduling, leaving more time for yield optimization. 

  • All revenue streams in one system 

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Able to support broader revenue streams, an ad server ensures no revenue is left on the table. Equipped to deliver multiple ad types from ‘spot in the loop’ to dynamic insertion, static creative, and programmatic impressions, this platform allows publishers to cater for diverse buyer needs and budgets. For instance, say an advertiser working with a budget of $1,000,000 wants to reach a male-dominated audience across digital billboards on a specific street in downtown Toronto.

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The publisher can set up rules and targeting criteria within the ad server based on this budget and audience demographic, ‘set it, and forget it’, allowing the brand’s campaign to be delivered through automatic buys across the most relevant inventory and hours.  

  • Unification and yield optimization 

One of the key strengths of the ad server approach is unification. It offers publishers a comprehensive overview of campaigns via dashboards that provide unified feedback and data streams from all demand sources and approaches; whether it’s impression-based, site selection (traditional loop-based), guaranteed or non-guaranteed, direct or programmatic. Publishers can leverage this streamlined reporting to continually assess effectiveness, evidence value, and fine-tune elements of their mix to optimize yield and performance. 

The next phase of ad server development 

With upgraded features, an ad server can now function as a fully-fledged advertising platform for publishers within DOOH. Modern platforms present publishers with the potential to implement an ad server as their one-stop-shop for configuring, running, and optimizing DOOH ad operations. Alongside helping publishers cut through fragmentation and reclaim inventory control, this move towards a holistic and versatile solution leaves them well-positioned to stay nimble as ad budgets remain subject to swift and sudden change. 

Where we go from here remains to be seen. On the ad server side, tech innovation is forging ahead.

Pioneering platforms are actively working to not only make ad coordination smoother but also make more use of intelligent tools. In the next few years, publishers can expect to see an ad server expand reporting with automated recommendations detailing the best next steps for stronger yield, making optimization even easier and faster.

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Currently, most DOOH infrastructure is firmly rooted in the CMS. These tools have stuck for a reason – they work well to support the way traditional DOOH was traded. For publishers weighing up their newly extended options, it will be important to remember that the CMS and ad server are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the most advanced platforms are designed to ensure efficient and seamless CMS integration when migrating to the ad server. 

Ad servers are set to continue developing and will become increasingly powerful decision-making machines that hold an integral place in the programmatic trading ecosystem.

Publishers stand on the cusp of a new era where harnessing the new sophisticated ad server possibilities could bring the efficiency benefits enjoyed by display, audio, and video to DOOH. Whether they decide to seize the opportunity at their fingertips is up to them.

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