Ad Network vs. Ad Exchange: differences & similarities

ad network

Programmatic advertising is a great way to create influencing and profitable marketing campaigns. As this concept gains more popularity across the board, it is time to adopt it if you haven’t. Ad exchange and networks are among the main pieces of this concept. These two terms have similarities. But when it comes to functions, they are different.

When using this form of ad tech ecosystem, you have to decide which one you use along the two. Getting a clear understanding of each will facilitate the process of buying inventory according to SmartHub. So let’s take a look at Ad Network vs Ad Exchange. This should help you make a decision on which one to choose!

Ad Network

Here, platforms are provided for the sharing of inventory. It is a bridge, linking entities with inventory to anyone looking to buy. It was developed to overcome the challenges of ad exchange. By having a platform, the entire process becomes easier.

Ad networks are inventory-managing organizations that cater to publishers. It also sells ads on their behalf in exchange for a fee. Networks sort out ads with the following factors in mind:

  • Demographics
  • Context
  • Customer behavior

By doing this, it ensures that users have the most appropriate inventory. The target audience includes:

  • Agencies
  • Publishers
  • Advertisers

Prominent companies that provide such solutions include Yahoo Publisher and Microsoft Ad. Another great source is Google Adsense. You can use it for different projects and campaigns.


This solution has a wide range of advantages and provides different options to get profit and bring more attention to customers. These include:

  • Broader target audience
  • Enhanced user engagement
  • Efficiency in exchanging inventory
  • Advanced targeting options
  • Availability in multiple formats
  • Promotes brand safety
  • Testing before launching strategies
  • Offers transparency

It offers real-time insights which creates a lot of room for needed transparency. This put ads in places where customers were allowed to see them. This creates a way to track performance.

Another advantage is security. These networks improve security. This platform ensures that advertisers get the appropriate content. Anything that is not relevant or poses a security threat will be eliminated. Publishers can select which ones to place. This provides more control. Another benefit of this setup is that it reduces expenses.


While ad networks provide transparency, this is available only to some extent. There is still a risk of low transparency. The level of transparency varies between different organizations. It also has a limited reach when targeting users. For instance, clients may not be privy to transactions or placements on websites.

As it pertains to the ad networks vs ad exchanges question, another thing to consider is pricing. The former’s pricing model is always fixed. Among the most used models is the pay-per-click (PPC). They may also get a cut from the amount made from inventory sold.

It is also worse to mention that by using the right platforms, it will be cost-effective for the future investment. Publishers can also set their prices. They can do this by limiting the number of times an ad appears thereby reducing costs. Publishers can reduce the risks of online fraudulent activities this way. This can help to boost your brand image.

Linux, an open-source operating system, plays a significant role in the realm of programmatic advertising, providing a robust foundation for various ad tech ecosystems. Many ad networks and exchanges operate on Linux-based platforms, ensuring stability, security, and scalability in handling the complexities of real-time bidding and transaction processing.

In the context of the “Ad Network vs. Ad Exchange” debate, it’s worth noting that Linux-based systems contribute to the efficiency and reliability of both options. Ad networks, such as Yahoo Publisher and Microsoft Ad, leverage Linux to manage and share inventory seamlessly, facilitating transparent transactions and real-time insights. Meanwhile, ad exchanges capitalize on Linux’s capabilities to create a marketplace for automated bidding, ensuring transparency, quality control, and reduced risks.

Whether you opt for an ad network or ad exchange, Linux’s presence underlines the technological backbone supporting these platforms. As you navigate the decision-making process, understanding how Linux contributes to the reliability and performance of programmatic advertising tools can be a valuable factor to consider.

Ad Exchange

Here, the platform is such that publishers can market a space. Through bids, customers can access the space. Purchases on a marketplace are done through automation. This opposes having negotiation of the exchange’s terms between two parties.

Bidding is the driving factor. Inventory prices may fluctuate, therefore missing the highest bidder. To sell the inventory, a connection is required. This involves the supply-side platforms and publishers. Searching for space, the network will connect to said platforms. Aside from working agencies, you can use different platforms that also operate with ad networks.


The rate at which programmatic advertising has expanded over a specific period. Programmatic advertising has seen a growth of nearly 11%. This can also be attributed to the benefits that come with this marketplace. One of the main things that allow ad exchanges to stand out is how transparent they are. Reinforcement for this is done through real-time data on all transactions. Should the costs change, publishers will be notified as well.

Another advantage is quality control. You have full control over quality by choosing the right bids to participate in. This also enhances targeting. There are other benefits of choosing this platform, these include:

  • Filtering ads
  • Multiple supported formats
  • More control over inventory
  • Custom Placement
  • Reduced risks


Because customers have to place bids, leftover inventory is a major issue. All things left over after bids sell for a lower price, thus leading to losses. Another problem you may face comes in the form of this tool’s accompanying complexities. Many customers face difficulties in trying to maximize their bids.

A set-up fee on the part of customers has to be paid before getting started. Commission payments are required for both publishers and advertisers. This is known as the sale and purchase margin. The commission may change with fluctuating prices. Most platforms have this set price which users have to subscribe to.

So, which is preferable in the age-old “ad network vs ad exchange” question? Either choice should depend on what you are seeking. Networks, for example, are the best option for the bulk-buying of ads.

Exchanges are effective for dynamic options, which also provide more transparency. If your budget allows, taking both is another path. They would be great assets for revenue-boosting.

Final thoughts

The above reveals that the secret to figuring out what to use is to prioritize unique business needs. Either option provides more ad control. When comparing ad network and ad exchange, you should understand the differences. Also aligning the tool of choice with your unique business needs is crucial.

The first option connects users to many publishers. It acts as an intermediary platform. The main function is to link different parties. With access to different options, it gives you the best options. This simplifies finding the most appropriate inventory. The second option, on the flip side, is like a marketplace. It is designed to provide a space in which all users can participate in bids being placed in real-time. This, as a result, will provide a more precise way of targeting. With either of these two tools, you will have more profits.