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Server-Side Ad Insertion: Advanced Solution to Ad Blocking

server-side ad insertion

The online advertising industry was valued at $304 billion in 2019. According to some estimates, this figure will reach $980 billion by 2025. The technological advances and increased online ad spending by companies are expected to drive the digital advertising market over the next couple of years.

However, the industry (and businesses, for that matter) constantly needs to overcome hurdles in order to stay afloat. The biggest challenge nowadays is ad fraud. By using various pieces of automated software, scammers are able to steal a portion of publishers’ revenue. Indeed, advertisers lost $42 billion of ad spending in 2019 due to fraud.

Ad fraud is the number one issue in the industry, with companies losing billions to elaborate botting schemes. Find out everything about this fraudulent activity here.

The good news is that there’s a way to protect your ad revenue from scammers. For instance, with Brid.TV, you can detect invalid traffic and respond only to ad requests that come from real customers and not bots.

Just as they found a way to deal with fraud, publishers and advertisers faced another challenge — ad blocking. Although some think that the industry should accept this software, others believe that it is just another tech problem to solve. After all, ad revenue is taking a hit due to programs that prevent advertisements from reaching the right customers.

Enter server-side ad insertion.

What Is Server-Side Ad Insertion?

Server-side ad insertion (SSAI), also known as dynamic ad insertion or ad stitching, is a video ad technology which delivers ad content in union with video content. SSAI stitches your videos and ads into a single stream on the CMS level as opposed to within the browser. This creates a more seamless user experience and reduces the possibility of client-side errors.

Furthermore, SSAI has been around for years, but publishers and advertisers have become increasingly interested in it once they started losing revenue to ad blockers.

This technology has emerged as an alternative to client-side ad insertion (CSAI).

With CSAI, a content delivery network (CDN) sends video content on the server-side. But, ad content is delivered by a third-party ad server, i.e. separately from videos. This technology was developed to bring personalized and targeted ads to the user. However, over the years, certain buffering and latency issues have appeared because videos and ads are not delivered in a union. This is what makes the method susceptible to ad blockers.

Just like CSAI, server-side ad insertion also allows personalized and targeted ads. However, by combining video content and ads, it eliminates the possibility of buffering and latency.
As we said, publishers and advertisers needed a new technology to reduce the threat of software capable of removing or altering online ads.

The Rise of Ad Blockers

The online advertising industry can’t catch a break. Just when it focuses on putting an end to ad fraud, another challenge emerges.

Firstly, web visitors developed banner blindness, a phenomenon in which they are able to ignore information presented in banners. Customers do this consciously or unconsciously in order to avoid interacting with ads that may disrupt the user experience.

Then, ad filtering software appeared on the market which meant that developers had to come up with server-side ad insertion.

Ad blockers are programs that allow users to block ads, save bandwidth, and prevent websites from storing their personal information. They are usually add-ons available on numerous browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. As their primary task is to ensure ads don’t appear on websites, these programs are responsible for ad revenue loss experienced by many publishers.

With internet users becoming more vocal about what they do and don’t like, web browsers have predominantly started to support ad blockers. Some of them block ads by default, while others require users to switch on blocking.

Of course, the number of companies offering ad blocking solutions has also increased over the years. And it is predicted that 47% of users rely on these programs to prevent annoying ads from reaching their screens. Just think about all the revenue loss publishers incur because of this! Luckily, server-side ad insertion can help them overcome this issue.

Ad Blocking in Numbers

Ad blocking tools have started to dominate the internet recently. Consumers’ expectations are increasing and they want to have full control of the content they see on the web. But this is affecting the digital advertising industry negatively. After all, promoting your products and services online is one of the best ways to reach more customers and build brand loyalty.

So, why are consumers so keen on using ad blockers? According to GlobalWebIndex, these are the main reasons:

  • Too many ads: 48%
  • Annoying or irrelevant ads: 47%
  • Too intrusive ads: 44%
  • Ads take up too much screen space: 38%

Ad blocking on mobiles has also surged. This doesn’t come as a surprise as there are 3.5 billion smartphone users around the world. What may be a cause of concern is that 527 million people were using mobile browsers that block ads by default in 2019. These browsers act like a barrier between brands and customers.

Of course, blocking ads on desktop is still very much a thing among website visitors. At the end of 2019, 236 million people were utilizing these programs on their computers or laptops.

Take a look at other staggering numbers regarding ad blocking usage:

Most ad blockers are set up to expect that video ad is pre-loaded to the customer’s video player on the device they are viewing the content. This is what we know as client-side ad insertion. However, as server-side ad insertion stitches video content and ad content together, it is able to circumvent ad blocking.

The Ad Blocking Landscape Is Diversifying

Bad news for the advertising industry is also the fact that the ad blocking landscape is diversifying. Just take a look at the many add-ons whose goal is to block ads and browsers that support them:

It’s no wonder, then, that publishers and advertisers need a solution that enables them to get their ads to their target audience. Server-side ad insertion is exactly what they require as it works around ad blockers.

But, how?

Let’s find out!

How Does Server-Side Ad Insertion Circumvent Ad Blocking?

When a viewer watches videos or OTT content, a CDN streams that video on their devices. What follows after that depends on client-side ad insertion and server-side ad insertion.

In the CSAI case, the video will stop playing from the CDN when it’s time for an ad break. The client sends an ad request and a third-party ad server will deliver that ad. Of course, once the ad has finished, the video player continues streaming content.

On the other hand, SSAI works a bit differently. When the video is about to reach an ad break, a marker in the stream signals to the SSAI vendor that an ad should be served. It is this vendor that sends an ad request instead of the player.

The third-party ad server then selects an ad and sends it back to the SSAI server. This server stitches the ad into the video content and forwards it to the player via the CDN. As a result, the video player streams video content and ad content in one continuous stream.

And this is how server-side ad insertion circumvents ad blocking! But the technology does more than that.

Let’s check out the benefits of SSAI to see what we mean by this!

Benefits of Server-Side Ad Insertion

Based on everything we’ve seen so far, server-side ad insertion is a superior technique to client-side ad insertion. Here are a number of considerable benefits this method provides:

  • It works around ad blockers: SSAI enables publishers and advertisers to avoid ad blocking software by stitching together videos and ads. This ensures the content is delivered in a single stream.
  • It delivers a better user experience: This method provides a more optimal viewing experience, showing high-quality video and ad creatives. Additionally, the video transitions seamlessly from content to ad, which customers enjoy.
  • It removes latency and buffering issues: SSAI can adapt to different bandwidths, thus supporting poor connections. The technology also ensures that the quality of all elements is consistent, which means that users will experience less buffering.
  • It provides consistency and reliability: Customers expect to enjoy a consistent quality of experience while streaming live content. SSAI is able to provide that. This consistency and reliability further boost engagement, which will increase viewing time.

When taking these benefits into account, publishers and advertisers need server-side ad insertion if they want to generate additional revenue and bring the best possible experience to their customers.

Server-Side Ad Insertion Is the Future of Advertising

Today, there are a limited number of server-side ad insertion providers. However, we expect this to change in the foreseeable future as ad blocking becomes an even bigger issue for publishers and advertisers.

Wider usage of server-side ad insertion will revolutionize the advertising industry and reduce the chances of revenue loss. Not only that, but it will also provide a better user experience and an enhanced quality of service.