the best ad serving technology

Which 5 Ad Servers Will Make You More Money in 2016

Updated: 31 July, 2016

Welcome to your graduation ceremony. You’re ready to move up from being a one trick pony and add more ad networks, exchanges, direct advertisers and ad tech providers to your monetization efforts.

That’s the good.

The bad is that you also need to manage all these new services, run reports, and optimize, optimize, optimize. This is where ad serving technologies come into play for you as a publisher. The ad server manages all your advertisers in one place and then “serves” the highest paying ad for every user. cha ching.

What’s the ugly?

This – Romanesco Broccoli. Nothing to do with ad servers but would you eat it?!

romanesco broccoli

Romanesco Broccoli

Why run an ad server?

how to choose ad serving technology

Here are a few more benefits you get when using ad servers.

    • Direct Advertisers – You can use your ad server to add direct advertisers procured by your fantastic ad sales team.
    • Scheduling – campaign scheduling.
    • Targeting – various targeting options like geography, time,and the coveted behavioral targeting.
    • Reporting – most ad servers provide simple reporting on impressions, clicks, campaigns, etc.
    • Technical Support – Most ad servers provide some kind of tech support that varies between email, phone, and instant messaging service depending on your package.

Those are only some of the benefits and features provided by ad servers. But before you go running off to fill sign up forms you should know that in some cases, when serving ad networks through an ad server, you may see a decrease in revenue vs. running the same network by placing their tag directly on the page.

As always, it’s about trial and error. Try and see what works best for you.

List of the top 5 ad serving technologies

Now let’s get into some of the top ad servers that are out there for you to choose from. Depending on your traffic volume, we’d like you to check them out. Remember, as the AdNgin team is obligated to remind our visitors all the time, this is something that needs to be tested. Setting up and managing your own ad server can be smart strategy. But it’s also possible you’ll do better with an ad network. Experiment!

  1. DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP)
  2. OpenX
  3. AdColt
  4. AdZerk
  5. AdTech

#1 DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP)




Surprise. A Google owned solution exists and it ranks among the top ad server recommendations everywhere. It also has huge advantages. If we can safely estimate that you have less than 90 million ad impressions per month, it’s free.

We’re not naive. This just so happens to be a great way for Google to identify premium publishers. But that isn’t really a bad thing. If you end up getting recruited into a program that will make you more money, we’re not entirely clear on reasons to say no.

But one of the greatest points with DFP is that you get the best of both worlds. One of the challenges of running your own ad server is that you have to be able to fill up your ad inventory. DFP will fill the inventory you can’t fill with AdSense ads.

If you couldn’t fill any of your ad impressions, DFP would effectively be equivalent to running AdSense in the first place. However, this ensures all of your traffic and impressions are serving up ads.

#2 OpenX





X marks the spot.
OpenX has major market share for publishers running their own ad servers. They claim to serve 100 billion+ ad impressions every month, and 96% of “leading national advertisers” use it. Even Don Draper would be impressed if he was reading this on his whisky stained laptop.

While they have multiple products, the ad server lets you host a real time ad bidding system. You decide which potential advertisers are approved, and the types ads you’ll approve for your site.

Yes, OPenX did make the list because of its popularity and trust that it has established in the AdTech world (which we’re not dis-respecting). That being said, there are caveats you should be aware of:

      • Outdated server
      • limited reporting
      • Slow load times

#3 AdColt




Perhaps AdColt breaks the streak. It isn’t free. But at $0.02 CPM (cost per thousand ad impressions) it’s very close to free. But one of its key advantages is that it’s a white label solution. This means you can make it your own. You have some customization options to align it with your brand, including the basics like logo and your own ad server domain name.

#4 AdZerk





If you’re a small publisher, you might go berserk when you hear the price of
AdZerk. Their plans start at $1,000. So you will have to have solid traffic that can generate break even clicks and ad revenue to go this route. Of course, they do have the standard 30 day trial, so it’s not a complete leap of faith.

Now this ad server option is going to appeal to more technical publishers. It offers multiple APIs to get data and manage the system. If the word API gives you heartburn, save your $1,000 for a trip to Vegas and go with another option.

#5 AdTech



We round out our top 5 with
AdTech. If you ever want to build your own ad server, our last three options should give you a hint on how to name it. Ad + {anything with four letters} seems to work. AdGoat, AdTwerk, AdNerd? Who are we kidding? It’s the web. Those domains are probably already gone. 😉

AdTech is owned by AOL. Lots of trends here, one of them being that some of the Web’s biggest or more recognizable brands are buying up this space. Fortunately for us all, AdTech does not come to your mailbox once a week on an unsolicited CD. If you’re too young to know what the means, you probably look great in skinny pants, but will never know the joys of Atari. But I digress.

It’s one of the longest standing ad servers, and this one is also designed for larger publishers. You’re going to need traffic to go with AdTech – and some patience.

Will you serve?

If you were paying attention to who has acquired many of our ad server options, you know ad servers are more than just a tool for serving ads by direct advertisers. You can aggregate all your ad networks into one hub and manage away.

how to choose an ad server

Ad servers really do lend themselves most to publishers doing considerable traffic volumes. At face value, you might guestimate that you could boost earnings by about 30%. This is compared to AdSense. If the strategy works out, it could be much better. But you will only determine that through testing and experimentation.

You also have to consider opportunity cost. An ad server is a commitment. It will require managing that new system and trying to maximize your ad revenue. And some of the ad server systems do come with a cost to you as well. Also, as mentioned above, sometimes, ad networks serving through DFPs can provide lower CPCs then if you were serving them by directly placing their JavaScript tags on your web pages.

If you’re thinking of getting an ad server setup, please check out these top 5. But come back and let us know which one you will use. We’d love to hear the reason you selected it.

I’m Head of Marketing Operations at AdNgin. Before coming to AdNgin, I was a marketing professional focused on SAAS business models. When I’m not working, which is rare, I sail and hang out with my son, Jonathan, and wife, Meital.
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  • Great list. I like Adcolt and how it is very customisable for agencies in aligning their brand rapport and the direction of the agencies or brands they serve.

    • That’s very true. I would guess they had agencies in mind when creating it.

  • Hey Eyal,
    The idea of setting up an ad server sounds good. At least from a business perspective.

    However, choosing what system works is purely a trial and error thing. Luckily, you have pointed out this in this post.

    The benefits are admirable. The company or business that wants to leverage on this must check itself if that is what it really wants!

  • romanesco broccoli is delicious