What’s the difference between an ad network and an ad exchange?

Every beginning businessman has questions about different aspects of marketing and business. For example, advertising. One of the things, which people often don’t realize, is that ad network and ad exchange are two different things that have their own advantages and disadvantages. They may have a lot of things in common but there are also many differences and I want to talk about them. But firstly, we need definitions.

 Ad network

Ad network is a company that serves as an intermediary between website’s owners and advertisers. The main goal is to gather ad supply from publishers, segment it by target audience (age, gender, location), and, finally, match it with advertiser’s demands and needs. Network works as an agent for both sides of the deal. When someone joins ad network, he saves money from spending them on tracking softwares, and frees from having own servers. Here are some platforms of ad networks:

  • Google
  • Microsoft Media Networks
  • TubeMogul
  • AdTube

Ad exchange

An exchange for promoting spaces. A platform  provides bargaining with ad displays: puts on display visitors’ impression on publishers’ websites, social or ad networks, accepts bids from Demand-Site Platforms and announces the winner. In addition, it works back-to-back with Real Time Bidding and is being a part of Supply-Side Platform technology. Here are some platforms where you may already begin improving marketing strategy and make money with Ad exchange:

  • OpenX
  • Facebook Exchange
  • Zenovia
  • Doubleclick by Google
  • adECN


AN collects all the advertising resource from publisher’s web pages and place it onto the platform and then sells it to clients (advertisers), adding a certain amount of stock to the inventory. Networks group inventory, as mentioned earlier, use specific targeting elements like user’s age, gender, interests, region etc. Prices are based on the media’s inventory. Ad targets are based on selling and buying  of the majority and is mostly contextual. Main challenge is to create new ways to sell a product. For example, inventory, that wasn’t sold, sells to other networks, or committing complex transactions.

Ad Exchange, per contra, doesn’t have a full control on the prices as the ad network. The prices of impressions and sites where advertising is being displayed are completely transparent what can’t be said about ad network’s policy – that makes it look more profitable for client. It is also able to give access to large quantities of publisher advertisements than advertising networks because they combine a number sources into a single platform. DSPs are providing better options of target marketing than Ad Networks. But exchange is losing to ad network on the field of inventory’s quality – it can often be a bad. It also has troubles working with the media that are rich or popular because of the limited potential.

Which one to use is only for you to decide but now you understand more about these two platforms and why are they not the same thing

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