A self-serve ad server is a type of ad server where your customer can log in and place ads on their own.
Since the purpose of an ad server is to effectively place and track advertisements on a website or ad network, making your server self-serve basically allows your advertisers access to your advertising opportunities without having to talk to someone each time they want to place an ad, make changes to their creatives, or track their performance.
If you think about it, the biggest digital advertising platforms are built to be self-serve. Google, Facebook, Taboola, LinkedIn ads, Bing ads, they all have portals where you can log in on your own and place an ad in their system. Being self serve is what has allowed these advertising giants to grow to the size that they have by empowering their customers to essentially shop for ads on their own.
There are a few key benefits to providing a self serve option with your ad server, and a few things to keep in mind.
The Benefits of Self Serve Ad Servers
The most important consideration with making your ads self serve is increased efficiency and reduced friction during the entire ad placement process. Practically speaking, this can transalate to the following:
- Less time spent selling – with a self-serve ad server, you can wake up in the morning and find that your advertiser just paid you for an ad without you even being involved. This is as close to passive income as you can get.
- Less administrative work – allow your customers to place and modify their own ads, and view reports on their campaign performance, will mean you have to spend less time doing it. This can greatly reduce the amount of time you or your team spends assisting customers or generating reports for them, and allow you to focus on the core parts of your business like creating content and maintaining customer relationships.
- Less friction and happy advertisers – by allowing your advertisers to access their own accounts, you’ll be providing them with great transparency and control. Even if you have great service, there still might be a few hours before you can assist every client. Letting customers log in and make changes to their ad campaigns on their own allows them the freedom to run their campaigns as they wish.
Key Considerations for Self Serve Ad Servers
Alongside these benefits to an ad server, there are still several key factors to keep in mind.
When to Bill
The first question about collecting payments on a self serve system, is when to do so. We have an entire post on the subject, discussing the pros and cons of billing your customers before, during and after their ad campaign. The point is, when you automate the process of billing for your ads, you also need to hone in on the nuances of that decision.
Do you make customers pay in advance, essentially getting credit for future ad campaigns? This gives you all the benefits upfront, but it can make for a harder sale and customers may end up with unused inventory. The is the system we’ve built for our self-serve ad server, because of the ease and simplicity it provides.
Do you bill during the campaign at periodic intervals? For example, charging a customer’s card after every $500 worth of ads they run. This puts the risk of unpaid invoices back in your court, while also mitigating the amount of risk with periodic billing. The question then becomes how long do you let a customer run their ads before billing them for their campaign – a specific interval of time? A specific bill amount? And what amount should that be.
Do you charge at the end? This puts all the risk back on you, the publisher, and therefore is quite uncommon unless you have a strong existing relationship with an advertiser. But for larger companies with larger budgets and slower accounting systems, this might be necessary choice.
If advertisers are placing ads on their own your site or network, there is always the risk that they’ll post something you don’t approve of. Whether this is an objectively offensive ad, or one that doesn’t align with your website’s content or readership, there may be types of content you don’t want to see on your pages.
It’s therefore important to have the means to disapprove an ad before it appears on your site, or disable it even after it sneaks through. This is why we’ve built a moderation panel into our system to allow an administrator to review ads that advertisers have submitted before they go live – and a way to auto-approve the ads if you do trust your advertisers to stay in line.
You still need to provide support
It’s important to manage yoru expections. Even if you build a self serve ad server, you’ll still probably need to provide sales and support services to support your business.
Often, Advertisers are not as keen to place their ad as you are to take their money and place it for them. You’ll need a sales process to help close the deal without unecessary delays.
Similarly, no matter how simple the system, there will always be users who get stuck, encounter issues, or don’t have enough of an understanding of the digital advertising process. You’ll need to have the support in place to assist your customers when they get stuck.
As you can see, adding a self serve system to your advertising and website monetization strategy can be a key step to adding more value to your customers and reducing your time and effort in making sales. At the same time, it brings a host of considerations that still must be factored for to make such a venture a success.