What Are First-Party Ad Servers (Publisher Ad Servers)?

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  • Post last modified:March 15, 2024

In a simple sense, an ad server is a web server that hosts information about the ads and delivers advertising content to digital platforms, mobile apps, and websites.

Just like a web server stores all the information of a webpage and shows the pages to the user, an ad server stores all the information about the ad in the right place and displays it to the right audience category.

In today’s world, ad servers have significantly evolved and outgrew their initial purpose. They are no longer just a software designed to transmit and store the data.

Modern-day ad servers help you optimize and manage your media buying activities such as hosting and serving the ads.

The revolution in ad technology has enabled the ad servers to serve ads over multiple platforms, enriched with advanced algorithms, analytics, and performance tracking.

Ad servers can broadly be classified into two types. They are first-party ad servers (publisher ad servers) and third-party ad servers (advertiser ad servers). 

This article talks about first party ad servers and their role. The article is a part of our series on “Ad servers” including chapters on third party ad servers, mobile ad servers, third party ad servers, and ad tags. 

What is a first-party Ad server?

First party ad servers help the publisher manage the ad slots on their websites and display the ads that are sold to the advertiser through direct campaigns.

A first-party ad server is responsible for making various decisions such as what ads to display on a particular website based on their targeting parameters, serving them, gathering and reporting all the data such as ad impressions, CTR, etc.

First-party ad servers offer a complete end to end advertising solution. 

If there is no direct campaign available, the first party ad server will act as a management platform to help the marketer decide what ads need to be served in the ad slot.

First party DMP for publishers

This is a database used for storing, targeting, and segmenting specific user segments on the digital properties of publishers such as apps, websites, and digital out of home devices.

The publishers use a DMP to obtain revenue through:

  1. Attracting advertisers with unique targeting capabilities. 
  2. Improving the relevance of the content seen by the user.
  3. Offering a high-value targeting option to which advertisers are willing to pay more.

First-party data refers to the users’ information on how they have interacted with the publisher, such as their browsing history, registration forms, cookies, what interests they have expressed, CRM info, etc.

In a first-party DMP, the data will be stored in an anonymous ID-such as a hash of the user’s log name.

For example:



“Gender”:” Male”

“Interests”:” Sportswear,Electronics”

“Maximum purchase amount”:2000

For explanation, let us consider an e-commerce retailer called Genie cart. They work with a team of advertisers to display native ads on their sites.

Let’s suppose one of their customers is Singson electronics, who has given the following advertising options.

  • Site-Wide Targeting – $1.00 cost/thousand impressions (CPM)
  • “Frequent shoppers” – $4.00 CPMs
  • “Frequent shoppers Who Have Purchased Before” – $9.00 CPMs

The probability of conversion for Singson electronics is less for site-wide targeting. On the other hand, for frequent shoppers, there is a higher chance of a conversion.

This is absolutely a favorable situation from the perspective of the user, advertiser, and publisher.

Genie carts can have a better revenue with premium prices, Singson electronics have a better chance of conversion, and the user sees ads that are relevant to them.

 It is necessary to make sure that the first party DMP has to be connected to the publisher’s server in real-time. This will make sure that the user-level data will be incorporated in real-time.

Working of of first party ad servers

Following are the steps involved in the working of a publisher ad server:

  1. When a user visits a website, the browser sends a request to the server asking for page content.
  2. The publisher’s server returns the HTML and renders the page content.
  3. The publisher’s server receives a request to select an ad slot on the page.
  4. Based on targeting information, the publisher’s server choses a relevant ad campaign. 
  5. The ad server now sends back an ad to the website.
  6. The ad is displayed. 

Check out the diagram below to understand more on the working of publisher ad servers:

first party ad server

Benefits of first party ad servers

Following are some key advantages offered by first party ad servers:

  1. Ad blockers are less likely to block first-party domain requests and cookies. This will help to improve efficiency and bring in broader traffic.
  2. Users are less likely to delete cookies of those domains that they have been to.
  3. As the world is transitioning towards a cookieless world, effectiveness of a campaign can only be realized by increased data, and a deeper understanding of user requirements. First Party Ad servers help gather important data regarding the user requirement, allowing marketers to take the right action to improve their business.
  4. With First-party ad servers, it is easier for the advertisers to work on several user clusters.

This article is a part of our comprehensive guide on “What Is An Ad Server And Why You Should Use It?

Are you planning an ad campaign and looking for more info on first party ad servers? Request a demo with MobileAds now!

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Alvin is the Founder and CEO of MobileAds.com. He is a go-getter, and adventurous guy who believes in working smart to gain success in his business ventures and in life. He also founded RichMediaAds.com and MobileLanders.com.