Ad Serving & Retargeting Platforms

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Ad Serving & Retargeting Platforms Overview

What is Ad Serving and Retargeting?

Ad serving and retargeting software is most commonly used by marketing departments. It involves displaying text or rich media ads on a website, and re-exposing viewers to customized ad materials. This can be either the company’s own or another website that has auctioned off digital real estate (such as a blog or news site).


Some ad serving products take a self-service approach, allowing users to micromanage, test, and deploy these campaign elements themselves. Others use a managed service approach, where the vendor conducts negotiation of price and placement for advertisements on the user’s behalf.


Retargeting involves targeting individuals/audience segments who have already been exposed to a company’s promotional material again. An individual’s prior behavior, called ‘intent’ data, give clues about a person’s interests and needs and is used in the retargeting process. The goal of retargeting is to identify potential new prospects and display relevant content based on intent data.


Onsite and offsite retargeting


There are two different types of retargeting that marketing teams can conduct: offsite and onsite targeting. Offsite targeting has traditionally been the retargeting avenue of choice. It involves identifying individuals who have already visited your company’s site and exposing them to more promotional materials (e.g. emails, ads on other sites).


Onsite targeting, also called ‘behavioral targeting’, involves re-exposing site visitors to specific promotional material while they are still on your company’s site. This style of retargeting relies heavily on visitor behavior while they are on the website.



Advertising Management and Ad Tracking Software


Some ad serving & retargeting software allows users to manage and track advertising campaigns across multiple channels. This is also called cross-channel campaign management or cross-channel advertising. Ad performance is measured in terms of conversion - either purchasing something at that moment or later on in the customer’s journey. More advanced ad management tools have analytics features that can help users optimize ad spend for maximum engagement or conversions.

B2B vs. B2C Retargeting

Technology and marketing practices around ads aimed at consumers, including retargeting based on offsite behavior, is more mature than ads aimed at businesses. However, B2B marketers are becoming more sophisticated at using automated personalization methods like retargeting and sequence targeting within their complex sales cycles.


Currently, several B2B ad serving & retargeting products are steering the market towards account-based advertising. Account-based ad targeting is a component of account-based marketing (ABM), a B2B marketing strategy that is quickly growing in popularity.


Ad Serving & Retargeting Platforms Features & Capabilities

Ad Campaign Features

The first major function of ad serving & retargeting software is to allow users to create and/or display ad campaigns. Common features include:


  • Ad campaign creation: Allows users to programmatically create ads and build new campaigns within the tool.

  • Ad deployment: Allows users to quickly and easily deploy new ad campaigns from within the tool.

  • Display advertising: Supports banner and rich media display ads, including video, audio, mobile, etc.

  • Ad display and retargeting segmentation: Allows users to display and retarget ads to audience segments based on demographics, location, account, role, or other profile aspects.

  • Sequence targeting: Allows users to create ad sequences for individual viewers on a website. This provides very fine control over brand messaging and storytelling.

  • Integration with ad exchanges: Integrates to a digital marketplace where advertising space (for display, video, mobile ads, etc. ) is bought and sold in real-time auctions.

Ad Reporting & Analytics Features

Ad serving & retargeting software also allows users to understand the results of their campaigns and adjust future campaigns accordingly. Common features include:


  • Ad dashboards: Dashboards for analyzing and/or optimizing ads.

  • Ad performance reports: Allows users to generate reports comparing the performance of various ads.

  • Ad conversion tracking: Tracks ad conversions by campaign and type of conversion (e.g. product purchase, newsletter subscription, filled out a form, downloaded a whitepaper).

  • Ad attribution reporting: Generates detailed reports that attribute conversion to a combination of different touch points (ads, and other factors) leading up to conversion.

  • Cross-channel ad management: Provides an integrated view or control panel that allows users to manage their ad campaigns across a variety of platforms in one place.

  • Ad forecasting and optimization: Ad forecasting models predict campaign performance to assist with optimization.

Ad Serving and Retargeting Platforms Comparison

Before investing in an ad serving platform, consider the following key factors:


  • Advertising channels: Are you looking for a platform that will allow you to serve ads across various paid channels? Or are you looking for an ad serving platform that is tied to a specific channel? Certain tools like Google Ads, Facebook for Business, and Twitter Ads focus on a specific advertising channel rather than allowing users to purchase ad space across channels like platforms like Criteo Dynamic Retargeting.

  • User-friendliness: Is it easy to set up ad campaigns within the platform and use the interface? Does it take a long time to become familiar and comfortable with the platform? What level of documentation and support does the vendor provide? Doing a free trial of the tool is a great way to get a better feel for the overall usability and user-friendliness of the platform.

  • Industry: Are you looking for a platform that’s specifically designed for B2C, B2B, or industries like ecommerce? Certain products are better-suited for either consumer or business user advertising or specific industries like ecommerce.


Start an ad serving and retargeting product comparison.

Pricing Information

Self-service SMB Ad Serving and Retargeting Platforms cost about $1 per month per account. A managed service engagement is likely to cost in the region of $1,000 per month. Enterprise self-service platforms can be significantly more expensive, but there is a tendency to only charge for the number of people who actually engage with ads.

Ad Serving & Retargeting Products

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Frequently Asked Questions

What do ad serving and retargeting platforms do?

These platforms allow marketers to retarget people who have visited their website, or target a specific audience segment on a digital channel, with advertising content. This content could be an image, text, a banner ad, a video ad, or other types of advertising content. Most advertising platforms also include ad campaign performance analytics.

What is a self-serve ad platform?

Some products focus on serving ads within a specific digital channel, such as Google search engine results pages (SERPs), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, etc. Other platforms act as the intermediary between advertisers and ad networks or digital mediums and allow marketers to self-serve purchasing ad space across channels.

A self-serve ad serving and retargeting platform usually allows advertisers to set up pre-defined parameters for their ad campaigns, including which digital medium to display ads on, which user segments to target, ad type, ad placement, the timing of ad displays on specific digital channels, etc.

How much do ad serving platforms cost?

Prices can vary based on the type of ad serving platform, the volume of ads being displayed, and the number of user licenses required. For example, self-serve style ad platforms can cost as little as $1 per month to get started. Managed ad serving and retargeting platforms are typically more expensive and can cost up to $1,000 per month or more.

Other products like Google Ads allow users to set a specific budget and big on ad placements within their budget range.