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Advertising Technology Terms

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Ad Blocker

An ad blocker is software that users can download to remove advertising from their online experience across both desktop and mobile devices. These programs filter out pop-ups, banner ads and other common forms of online advertisements, allowing a user to surf the Web without being exposed to brand messages…

Ad Blocker

An ad blocker is software that users can download to remove advertising from their online experience across both desktop and mobile devices. These programs filter out pop-ups, banner ads and other common forms of online advertisements, allowing a user to surf the Web without being exposed to brand messages. The overwhelming majority of ad blockers that exist are concentrated in emerging markets and are most commonly used by consumers to manage scarce internet bandwidth.

Ad Fraud

Ad fraud is a form of criminal activity where impressions, clicks and user behaviours are falsely mimicked and charged to advertisers in order to generate fraudulent revenue. There are numerous types of ad fraud from click farms and ad stacking, to sophisticated networks which artificially inflate traffic to websites. It’s important to use technology defences available in media buying platforms to mitigate fraud and ensure every advertising dollar counts.

Ad Exchange

An ad exchange is a marketplace that enables the buying and selling of digital advertising spots in an automated fashion. The exchange is run via a real-time auction, where publishers make advertising space available for advertisers to bid on. The dynamics of supply and demand determine the price of an ad – normally on a cost per one thousand impressions (CPM) basis. Almost all forms of digital advertising can now be bought and sold on exchanges including display, video and native across desktop and mobile devices. Marketplace participants include demand-side platforms (see DSP) and supply-side platforms (SSP).

Ad Network

An ad network is a company that aggregates digital advertising spots from multiple publishers and ad exchanges to package and on-sell to brands and agencies. This is normally either in the form of an audience buy (eg. M18-35), a category buy (eg. sports sites), a run of site buy (across one publisher site), or across a network of sites. The ad network model was adopted as the main buying mechanism in the early days of digital advertising as it allowed media buyers to secure inventory across hundreds of websites, but there were challenges with the lack of transparency. Most agencies and brands now bypass ad networks, as they can access pools of inventory by licensing demand-side platforms to plug into ad exchanges.

Ad Server

An ad server is a web-based system where an advertiser’s creative assets are loaded and then delivered to advertising spots on a website in milliseconds, once an impression is bought. Ad serving can be performed by the publisher if a direct buy has been done or facilitated through 3rd party ad serving vendors. In the latter case, an ad tag or piece of code is generated by the ad server and loaded into a buying platform (see DSP).

A primary function of an ad server is to verify delivery of a digital campaign – it also provides ad management (particularly useful when there are multiple creative assets and/or versions), campaign tracking and top-line performance reporting. An ad server can help provide comparable metrics if multiple buy-side platforms and publishers are used.

Agency Trading Desk

An Agency Trading Desk is a team within an agency that is responsible for executing programmatic media buying as a managed service. It typically licenses and white labels demand-side platforms to purchase and optimise media campaigns on ad exchanges, ad networks and other inventory sources. Increasingly agency trading desks also use technology partners for additional services such as verification, creation and delivery of rich media, dynamic creative optimisation and audience measurement.

Black List

A Black List identifies a list of websites that an advertiser blocks their campaign from running across. Most demand-side platforms have inbuilt black lists, which are dynamically updated based on specific flags around quality and type of content. Advertisers and agencies can also curate their own list and load it into a DSP.

Brand Advertising

Brand Advertising refers to activity that is designed to build brand equity. This can be in the form of generating awareness, association or a sentiment with the audience. Advertising creative generally informs or entertains, with the goal of ensuring the brand’s product or service is in the consideration set when a customer goes to buy. This is different to direct response advertising which focuses on driving an immediate action.

Brand Safety

Brand safety refers to ensuring an advertiser’s creative does not appear alongside objectionable content or anything that might impact the brand negatively, resulting in unsafe, off-brand or wasted advertising opportunities. Obvious examples include nudity, extremism and bad language, however, it also extends to fast food brands not advertising to children and alcohol labels not advertising to people under 18. Most demand-side platforms have inbuilt defences, but it is critical that advertisers and agencies customise brand safety thresholds and use appropriate technology to safeguard against failure.

Demand-Side Platform (DSP)

A demand-side platform is software that enables buyers – brands, agencies and ad networks – to purchase advertising spots from ad exchanges and publishers. The role of a DSP is to assess all available inventory, layer in a buyer’s requirements around audience targeting, price and campaign objective, and buy spots that meet these parameters at the most cost efficient rate. A DSP can then measure and
optimise a campaign in real-time. It’s important to understand if a DSP partner owns media or also functions as a supply-side platform, as this can mean it is partial to delivering campaigns across certain websites that it benefits from – rather than focusing on achieving the objectives of the advertiser.

Direct Response Advertising

Direct Response Advertising, sometimes referred to as Performance Advertising, is action-oriented and aimed at driving an immediate response from the audience like a click, website sign up or sale. Normally an advertiser only pays when the result is achieved eg. cost per click, cost per lead or cost per acquisition. Direct response creative generally features a call to action, promotion or special offer and is a popular application of AdTech, where automation and algorithms help drive the most efficient outcome.

Private Marketplace (PMP)

A private marketplace is a means of facilitating an automated media buy across a publisher or group of select publishers. The transaction is within a real-time auction environment (see RTB), but the terms of the deal are prenegotiated between the buyer and seller (eg. rate, type of inventory, audience). This allows advertisers and agencies to curate a marketplace based on their requirements. Similarly, publishers can control which advertisers appear on their website.

Programmatic Buying Unit (PBU)

A Programmatic Buying Unit (sometimes referred to as a Programmatic Business Unit or Private Trading Desk) is a team within an agency or brand responsible for managing the media buying, optimisation and reporting for a specific client. PBUs license and use demand side platforms (see DSP) and are the result of the growing need to decentralise agency trading desks. Programmatic experts are embedded in existing client teams or a trading team is created specifically for a certain client (depending on overall advertising budget).


Retargeting (sometimes referred to as remarketing) is a strategy to re-engage a user based on their prior digital experience or behaviour, for example, their activity on a brand’s website or previous exposure to an ad. An advertiser might want to retarget a shopping cart abandoner with creative featuring a special offer to entice them back to purchase or retarget somebody exposed to a video ad with display creative for sequential storytelling.

The advertiser pre-determines the user events they would like to re-target by embedding some code
on their website or advertising, which drops a cookie in the user’s browser. When this cookie is next
identified by the demand-side platform (see DSP) the user is served the follow-up creative.

Real-Time Bidding (RTB)

Real-time Bidding is the automated trading of digital advertising spots using technology platforms. This normally takes place in an ad exchange, where demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms participate in auctions. Millions of advertising spots (or impressions) can be transacted in seconds and if the advertiser’s bid wins, their creative is instantly loaded on the publisher’s site.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing is the broad term applied to strategies that are designed to position a brand’s website higher within paid or organic results, when a user enters a query (a word or sentence) into a search engine. The ultimate goal is to drive traffic to a brand’s website by increasing visibility on the search results page. This can be done through the purchase of key words (paid search) or the optimisation of websites (organic search).

Supply-Side Platform (SSP)

A supply-side platform is used by publishers to sell advertising spots across their website in an automated fashion. The SSP connects to ad exchanges and makes the publisher’s inventory available for demand-side platforms (DSPs) to bid on. Publishers use an SSP to manage their yield and access a range of potential buyers. The goal of an SSP is to get the highest price possible for the publisher, who enters a minimum rate they are willing to accept. This differs to a demand-side platform (DSP) which focuses on getting the lowest price possible for an advertiser. An SSP can be dedicated to only one type of advertising, such as mobile, or it might provide access to a wide variety of formats.


Viewability is a metric for measuring whether a purchased digital ad has the opportunity to be seen by a human within a recognised timeframe. The concept became popular in 2014 when it was discovered that a portion of the digital advertising that brands were paying for, was being delivered in areas of a website page that never made it into view. The IAB has ratified the definition of viewability handed down by the Media Rating Council (MRC): 50 per cent of the ad in view for one second for display and 50 per cent of the ad in view for two consecutive seconds for video. It is important to note that user behaviour plays a significant role – if a user tabs away or scrolls past an ad quickly, the viewability is impacted.

Hence there is no way to know before an ad is served if it will be viewable or not, and a 100 per cent viewability rate is actually impossible. Some vendors will give advertisers the option to only pay for viewable ads – as with all performance pricing, these vendors deliver significantly more impressions than advertisers have contracted and only charge for the viewable ones. Viewability can be optimised and should increase over the course of a campaign with factors such as ad placement, player size, and the quality of the creative, all increasing the viewability rate.

White List

A white list is a curated list of websites that a digital campaign is approved to run on. As with a black list, advertisers and agencies can customise their own white list. This is one strategy to mitigate brand safety risks, however, white lists are becoming less relevant as technology to block questionable content in real-time improves. This is because the content on websites is constantly updating, so it is important to implement dynamic technology defences available in demand-side platforms (see DSP).

Source: Adobe guide – Bridging the AdTech and MarTech Divide

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