HOW DO ONLINE ADS WORK?

If you spend any time at all on the internet, you’re going to be interacting with online ads. Whether it’s closing a popup when you go to a new site or skipping through those 5 second YouTube video ads, online ads are part of our daily life. Even though we’re all very familiar with online ads, most of us don’t know how they work. How did that ad get in front of you?

We may not think much of ads, but the whole process an ad goes through is actually pretty amazing. As a website visitor, your information is bounced around the world, all just to show you that one advertisement. And the whole process takes less than a second! It all starts when you load a webpage.

Step 1) Advertisers Gather Information

When you arrive on a website, believe it or not, you’re bringing a lot of information with you. From your IP address, advertisers can know where you are geographically. The browser you’re using lets advertisers know if you’re using Android or iPhone. Browser information also shows if you’re searching on a desktop, tablet, or phone.

cookies store a lot of information about you. Cookies are small data files stored on your computer that allow websites to identify you and show you a customized web page. When you visit a website, a cookie comes from the site and attaches itself to your browser. Anytime you open a new page online, you can now see an ad tailored to you based on the information in that cookie.

Amazon is notorious for using this technique. When you search for a product on Amazon, an Amazon cookie attaches itself to your browser. It pairs your Amazon cookie with your Amazon profile. Now when you open a new web page, you can be shown ads of the products you were just looking at. This process is called retrgeting.

Step 2) Ad Placement Are Built

Ads will usually appear in the same place on a webpage. Every time you load the page you may see a different creative, but all the ads will appear in the same spot. This is because a little bit of code is placed on the website to designate a place for the ad. An ad tag is the ad code in the body of a site’s code. This ad tag dictates where the ad will appear on the page.

Ads will usually appear in the same place on a webpage. Every time you load the page you may see a different creative, but all the ads will appear in the same spot. This is because a little bit of code is placed on the website to designate a place for the ad. An ad tag is the ad code in the body of a site’s code. This ad tag dictates where the ad will appear on the page.

With the ad tag, a small section of the web page is set apart for an ad. Advertisers only want to fill that space with an ad when there are eyeballs on the page, i.e. when a reader loads the webpage. Script at the top of each web page sends a request for ads while the page loads. This is called an ad call. The code on each page sends out a request when an ad is needed to fill the ad slot.

Step 3) Ad Calls Are Made To Ad Servers

Once the webpage is equipped with ad tags and ad calls, the page is ready to show visitors an ad. Online advertising is all about using the data from your IP address, browser, and cookies to show an ad tailored to you. When you click on a webpage and it starts to load, that generates an impression. That impression is forwarded to an ad server. An ad server is the meeting place of advertising code and ad providers. Ad providers are anyone or any entity that is buying the ad and providing the creative. Individuals, companies, or advertisers can be considered ad providers.

When you click on a webpage and it starts to load, advertisers are allowed to see your information in the ad server and decide whether or not they want to advertise to you. If your information shows that you are the type of person that would buy their product, the advertiser will bid on your impression. If the bid wins, the ad server will take the creative and display it to you on the webpage you loaded.

The most incredible thing is that all of this is happening in real time. Sending out your information to the ad server, allowing advertisers to view that information and bid on your impression, and then showing you the ad – it all takes place in milliseconds. The process is automated so it all happens very quickly. Can you believe all of this is happening in the time it takes for you to load a single web page?  

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