A network representing many Web sites in selling advertising, allowing advertising buyers to reach broad audiences relatively easily through run-of-category and run-of-network buys.
Advertising networks provide a way for media buyers to coordinate ad campaigns across dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of sites in an efficient manner. The campaigns often involve running ads over a category (run-of-category) or an entire network (run-of-network). Site-specific buys are not a major emphasis when dealing with advertising networks. In fact, site-specific buys are not even available at some networks, so as not to conflict with in-house sales reps.
Ad networks vary in size and focus. Large ad networks may require premium brands and millions of impressions per month. Small ad networks may accept unbranded sites with thousands of impressions per month.
One of the key issues for publishers is exclusive vs. non-exclusive representation. Exclusive representation generally brings a higher percentage of revenue sharing, but sometimes results in a smaller percentage of ad inventory being sold. In non-exclusive arrangements, publishers may use secondary advertising options to fill the space left unsold by the primary ad network.
Online advertising networks can be divided into three groups based on how they work with advertisers and publishers:
They represent the publications in their portfolio, with full transparency for the advertiser about where their ads will run. They typically promote high quality traffic at market prices and are heavily used by brand marketers. The economic model is generally revenue share. Vertical Networks offer ROS (Run-Of-Site) advertising across specific Channels (example: Auto or Travel) or they offer site-wide advertising options, in which case they operate in a similar fashion to Publisher Representation firms.
These companies offer good pricing to direct marketers in exchange for those marketers relinquishing control over where their ads will run, though some networks offer a "site opt out" method. The network usually runs campaigns as RON or Run-Of-Network. Blind networks achieve their low pricing through large bulk buys of typically remnant inventory combined with conversion optimization and ad targeting technology.
Sometimes called "next generation" or "2.0" ad networks, these focus on specific targeting technologies such as behavioral or contextual, that have been built into an Ad server. Targeted networks specialize in using consumer clickstream data to enhance the value of the inventory they purchase.Further specialized targeted networks include social graph technologies which attempt to enhance the value of inventory using connections in social networks.