The Ad Server


When you visit a website and see ads, some of those ads are in an "ad tag." This ad tag gives the ad-ops team lots of data. We share this data to campaign managers, clients, etc. -the data is used to improve future campaigns and underestand online users' behaviour.

Here's the process:

  1. Client talks about goals, new products, new offers, etc. and will be promoting via online advertising.
  2. Creative agency creates the ad banners (aka "creatives"). The media buying agency buys the ad space.
  3. The ad-ops team creates the ad tags (in the ad server).
  4. The websites (publishers) receive the ad tags and place them on the ad space.
  5. Campaign is live.

Particularly, I'm focusing on the ad server, which is where the ad tags are created, where campaign data is tracked and reported, and where the ad-ops team troubleshoots all issues.

Why do we need ad tags?

Ads can run on their own without ad tags. However if agencies (representing the clients) would like to have more control, we use ad tags. When the publishers place these ad tags on the websites, the agencies can update the campaign as much as they'd need to without resending assets to the publishers. We can make revisions on the ad server (which updates the ad tags).

With ad tags:

  • When banners are updated, we update on the ad server. We don't need to alert the publishers.
  • Reports can be pulled instantly on the ad server. We don't need to wait for the publishers (especially when the report is needed at 11PM at nights).
  • When landing pages are updated, we update on the ad server.
  • When the ads aren't running, the ad server will know.

What is the process for creating ad tags?

  1. Either of this happens:
    • Campaign manager creates "placements" on their system (ex. Prisma), and push these placements to the ad server.
    • Or, an ad ops person creates these placements directly on the ad server.
  2. Online banners, videos, etc. are uploaded to the ad server.
  3. Click-through URLs are placed into these banners, on the ad server.
  4. Ad ops puts together all these assets and match them to the correct placement.
  5. Each placement creates one tag.
  6. Tags are saved, then sent to websites. We wait for websites to publish them.

What reporting can we get with ad tags?

  • Total number of users who has seen this ad.
  • Total number of users who clicked on the ad.
  • Both of the above, and during a specific period of time.
  • All of the above, and by date.
  • User location.
  • User browser/device.
  • Did they finish watching the video?
  • Did they interact with an expanding banner?
  • How many users clicked on banner A vs. banner B.
  • etc.

What tags do we need for...

Standard and Mobile Banners

If one of the below is true, create an impression and/or click tracker:

  • Creative is site-served
  • Publisher is building the creatives
  • Ad will appear in an email newsletter
  • Publisher does not accept standard tags, but can accept impression/click trackers.
  • Some publishers only use impression/click trackers for mobile.

If none of the above are true, then:

  • One tag per size, per publisher.
  • NOTE: this one tag will track everything for this publisher. So if you have multiple buys on this publisher, for example, "Homepage Takeover" and "ROS", we should send multiple tags.

For example: We're running a Homepage Takeover (which is 300x250 and a masthead on the homepage) and ROS banners (which will be standard sizes and mobile sizes). These are the tags this publisher will need:

  • HPTO - masthead - 970x250 (this size depends on the website)
  • HPTO - 300x250
  • ROS - 300x250
  • ROS - 728x90
  • ROS - 160x600
  • ROS - mobile 300x50
  • ROS - mobile 320x50
  • (The publisher will let you know the correct sizes, be sure to double check the contract/IO)

On Prisma:

  1. Create new placement on Prisma
  2. Set Dimensions (under Basic Info) to the correct banner size
  3. Set Placement Type (under Traffic) to In-Page
Prisma screenshot: standard banners

Ad Ops Tip: You can also make sure you receive the correct creatives.

Pre-roll / In-Stream Video

Is the website VAST-certified? (What is VAST?)

  • Yes: an in-stream video (VAST) tag.
  • No: an impression/click tracker tag.

On Prisma, a VAST tag:

  1. Create new placement on Prisma
  2. Set Placement Type (under Traffic) to In-Stream Video
Prisma screenshot: In-Stream Video

On Prisma, an impression/click tracker: see here.

Impression/Click Trackers

Standard tags vs. Impression/Click trackers

Standard tags have creatives (ex. Flash banners, static images, etc.) running inside the tags.

Impression/click trackers do not have creatives running in them. (Read more here)

When do I use this?

  • Wallpapers
  • Custom ad (NOT rich media creative)
  • Site-served creatives
  • Sponsored blog posts
  • Email newsletters
  • Facebook ads (click-track only)
  • Sites that do not accept pre-roll VAST tags
  • YouTube TrueView

How do I create this on Prisma?

  1. Create new placement on Prisma
  2. Set Dimensions (under Basic Info) to "1 x 1"
  3. Set Placement Type (under Traffic) to In-Page
  4. Include "1x1" or "Impression/Click Tracker" in the name.

Ad Ops Tip: The ad server only needs one placement for impression and/or click tracker. You do not need to separate them.

Do I need to create two placements?

Nope! One "1x1" placement can be used as impression and click tracking. It can also be used to track impressions without tracking clicks, and vice versa.

Prisma Errors

Still to come.

If you encounter Prisma errors, can you send them to me (so I can make a giant collection of Prisma errors)?