Ad Network vs. Ad Exchange

On a bigger picture Ad Network and Ad exchanges have some similar purposes in the digital marketing industry. They both have some common traits like they both gather free inventories from publishers in one place and offer those same inventories to different advertisers for sale. They both can be integrated with Supply-Side and Demand-Side platforms along with the enabling of Programmatic ad selling and buying.

These all things make it quite difficult to show the difference between these two technology platforms. If you decode these concepts in the early stages you will be having better chances for having a quick business optimization and your brand strengthening.

Advertising Network

Advertising Buying Network is an online platform that functions as an intermediary body between advertisers and publishers. It matches the demand that comes from advertisers with the inventories that it has collected from publishers. Ad networks sort all the gathered inventories into different categories based on the specific/certain audiences.

Advertising Exchange

Advertising exchange is an online marketplace where supply and demand parties (Publishers, advertisers , ad networks, DSPs, SSPs etc) meets with each other and buy and sell different inventories without involvement of any 3rd party. In many cases ad exchanges uses a real time bidding (RTB) technology to create and manage online auctions and sell inventories to the highest bidder based on the criteria of impression-by-impression.

Differences between Ad Network and Ad Exchange


  • Ad Network users includes different Publishers, advertisers and agencies
  • Ad Exchanges users includes Publishers, Advertisers, agencies, Ad-Networks, other ad exchanges, different DSPs, SSPs and ATDs.


  • Ad Network platforms can offers some specific categories of different ads that are pre-segmented for serving to some particular audiences. It refers to buying and selling in bulk.
  • Ad exchange is a marketplace that offers an open pool of various inventories. It is based on an impression by impression trade.

Gains for Publishers:

  • In ad Network publishers have usually less control over the inventory optimizations and pricing.
  • In Ad-Exchange publishers have more control over the value of each impression.

Gains for Advertisers:

  • In Ad network prices are usually higher because they are determined individually this is the reason advertisers often overpays.
  • In Ad-Exchange prices are define by the advertisers according to their desire.

Principle of work:

  • An Ad Network acts as an intermediary body between publishers and advertisers.
  • An Ad Exchange works as an open ad market for all the players present in the market.


  • Ad Networks always works as a company in the market.
  • Ad Exchanges works as a technology for media buying in the market.


  • In Ad Network Advertisers usually don’t know which websites are serving their ads and publishers don’t know which companies are buying their inventories.
  • In Ad Exchanges Advertisers know which publishers they are buying inventories from and vice versa. Pages that are servings the ads can be tracked often and some of the ad exchanges allow other advertisers to see their competitor’s bids.

Optimization of Campaigns:

  • In Ad Network it takes time to do the campaigns optimization.
  • In Ad Exchanges it is easier than Ad Network and can be done in on the go.

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