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  • Writer's picturePeter Fontana

The Components of a Publisher Ad Stack and How They Interact


Small blue data cubes representing a publisher ad stack.


Ad stacks make programmatic advertising work on OTT services and help both publishers and advertisers optimize their return on investment. But how do they affect your business?


Get to know what a publisher ad stack is, its different components, and how these components work together.


Key Takeaways

  • An ad stack consists of the tools, platforms, and systems that enable programmatic advertising

  • For OTT publishers, the ideal ad stack includes ad servers, ad networks, ad exchanges, supply-side platforms, and demand-side platforms

  • Other components of an ad tech stack include data management platforms, customer data platforms, brand safety tools, and reporting and analytics

What is an Ad Tech Stack?

A publisher’s advertising stack, sometimes called an ad tech stack, refers to the technology, systems, platforms, and tools used to manage digital advertising. Publishers, advertisers, and other parties build ad stacks to automate the buying and selling of ad space on advertising-based OTT services.


Publishers use ad tech stacks not only to sell ad space but to maximize the revenue generated from that space. Advertisers use ad tech stacks to find the right platforms and programming for their ad content and to maximize the impact of that content in a cost-effective fashion.


Understanding ad tech.


A publisher’s advertising stack, sometimes called an ad tech stack, refers to the technology, systems, platforms, and tools used to manage digital advertising. Publishers, advertisers, and other parties build ad stacks to automate the buying and selling of ad space on advertising-based OTT services.


Publishers use ad tech stacks not only to sell ad space but to maximize the revenue generated from that space. Advertisers use ad tech stacks to find the right platforms and programming for their ad content and to maximize the impact of that content in a cost-effective fashion.



Major players in the ad tech stack market.


Components of an Advertising Stack

There are nine essential components of a publisher ad stack. From the base ad server to reporting and analytics tools, these components help drive digital advertising today, especially on OTT platforms.


Major players in the ad tech stack market.


Ad Server

The ad server “serves” or delivers ads to the publisher’s OTT service or website.

Publishers use what are called first-party ad servers, while ad networks and advertisers use third-party servers. These ad servers not only deliver ads – they also store the ads themselves. When available ad space is auctioned off, the ad server delivers the advertisement to the proper OTT service in the proper ad slot.

Ad servers also help determine which ads are delivered to which services. These delivery decisions are based on some factors as specified by advertisers and ad networks.


Ad Network

An ad network purchases ad inventory from multiple publishers and aggregates it into a single platform. The ad network then resells this ad space to advertisers and registers a commission on the sales.


Ad Exchange

An ad exchange is similar to an ad network, except it doesn’t purchase the ad space. Instead, it establishes an open marketplace where advertisers and publishers can connect to buy and sell ad space and advertisements. Ad exchanges typically provide access to more inventory from more sources than ad networks.


Supply-Side Platform (SSP)

A supply-side platform, or SSP, is an automated service that enables OTT services to sell their ad space to multiple ad exchanges. In effect, an SSP is like a super ad exchange. SSPs let publishers:

  • Control how their ad space is sold by setting price floors

  • Specify what types of advertisers can bid

  • Determine where ads can be slotted in a program

  • Provide Header Bidding or Unified Auction functionality


Demand-Side Platform (DSP)

A demand-side platform, or DSP, is the flip side of an SSP. OTT providers use an SSP to sell their ad space to multiple advertisers, while advertisers use DSP to place their ads on multiple OTT services. Like SSPs, DSPs are automated and enable an OTT to reach targeted viewers and get the most impact from their ads.


DSPs enable advertisers to:

  • Control the frequency of their ads

  • Work within a specified ad budget

  • Target specific types of viewers

Viewers can be targeted by demographic characteristics (age, gender, location) as well as by viewing habits, hobbies, websites visited, and other factors.


Data Management Platform (DMP)

A data management platform, or DMP, isn’t involved in the buying and selling of ads and ad space, per se. Instead, a DMP stores data about users that both SSPs and DSPs use to connect specific ads with specific types of users. DMPs use cookies and other tracking technologies, as well as data obtained from other parties, to create sophisticated user profiles.


Most DMPs assemble massive amounts of data, which enables AI-driven analysis and actionable insights of value to SSPs and DSPs alike.


Customer Data Platform (CDP)

A customer data platform, or CDP, is a next-generation DMP. Where DMPs collect primarily third-party data, CDPs focus on first-party data collected by companies that directly engage with their customers. With Google intending to phase out third-party cookies, many DSPs and SSPs are turning to CDPs for their customer data.


Brand Safety Tools

Brand safety tools ensure that a brand’s content doesn’t appear in inappropriate programming, and that programming isn’t sullied by inappropriate ads. This can happen with both traditional and programmatic advertising, which is why publishers and advertisers alike need to employ ad inventory scanning and ad quality tools to ensure the best possible match between program content and ad content.

For publishers, brand safety tools bring the added benefit of being able to charge premium pricing for their ad space. If a publisher can guarantee brand safety to advertisers, they can charge more for the more targeted ad space they sell.


Reporting and Analytics

Publishers want to know whether viewership drops during ad blocks. Advertisers want to know who and how many people are watching their ads. With detailed reporting and robust analytics, publishers and advertisers can identify the effectiveness of their efforts.


Publishers use reporting tools to grab ad viewership data generated by the ad insertion service. They then use data analysis tools to gain insight from that data and transmit that analysis to their advertising partners. Only by generating and analyzing this data can the entire process become more efficient and effective, for both OTT providers and advertisers.


How OTT Publishers Can Optimize Ad Revenues

An efficient ad tech stack works to optimize ad revenues and ROI for OTT publishers. With ad tech solutions, publishers can increase fill rates and serve more targeted advertising. Adding solutions compatible with your existing ad stack can help you get the best use of your available ad inventory.


Contact Penthera today to learn more about maximizing the effectiveness of your ad tech stack.

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