Mobile Ad Servers

Tracking the Trackers: Third-Party Ad Serving Today

by | Mar 27, 2015

ROI-based advertising is all about one thing: tracking.

Tracking data. Tracking campaign metrics. Tracking consumer behavior.

The widespread availability of big data and digitized information has made analytically understanding audiences – and the campaigns we use to reach them – not only possible, but necessary.

We track to optimize. Even more so, we track to hold the tools and services we use accountable. Sometimes, however, it’s better to have someone else do the tracking. Why?


Numbers may never lie, but reporting most certainly can. For these reasons, the ad server was born.

History of the Ad Server

An ad server’s primary function is to store, manage, and serve ads on publishers’ sites and apps. In doing so, ad servers provide advertisers and publishers with a way to count ad impressions and track conversions, thereby increasing understanding and optimization.

Third-party ad servers combine advanced counting and tracking services with the benefit of unified reporting. By handing over the reporting duties to an impartial third-party, advertisers and publishers are given a much-needed dose of security. There’s a lower chance for miscommunication, and a lower chance for false information, however unintentional.

Everyone has the same numbers. At least, that was the idea.

Ad Servers – On the Way Out?

The rise of issues concerning viewability has placed the ad server’s place in the larger digital ecosystem in doubt. Advertisers only want to pay for viewable impressions. Because ad servers track “served impressions” (not “viewable impressions”), the numbers they provide are becoming less and less useful.

Why count the total number of impressions, when the viewable impressions are the only ones that really matter?

It wasn’t long ago that AdExchanger declared the ad server dead. We tend to agree. As ad fraud has advanced in sophistication, so too has the technology to combat it. Data-management platforms (DMPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs) have effectively taken the reigns from the ad server in offering a comprehensive data solution.

For instance, The Mobile Majority’s own mobile DSP AdCast™ enables advertisers to not only track their data through use of real-time analytics, but also filter out fraudulent placements in order to ensure that their ads are being viewed by real people.

Real impressions = real money.

A Holistic Approach

Unfortunately, ad servers (even mobile ad servers) fail to address the advertising industry’s overarching need for holistic solutions. What they offer is merely one singular piece, whereas companies like The Mobile Majority have managed to fit together the entire puzzle.

And what happened to trust? As it turns out, big-time publishers like Google began to develop their own ad servers anyway, recreating the need for verifiable accountability.

Independent solutions such as The Mobile Majority offer all of these capabilities, from data and viewability tracking to independent impartiality, once again proving that ad tech is an industry best served integrated.

What do you think? Are ad servers on their last leg – or do they still have a place in today’s complex ecosystem? Tell us in the Comments section below.