Getting to Know the Ad Exchanges

Like their ad network predecessors, each ad exchange has something unique to offer media buyers. The nature of their inventory, targeting methods, placement options, and pricing models distinguish them from their competitors, so understanding the best attributes of each can help marketers make an educated and appropriate choice.

Also like ad networks, ad exchanges are quick to tell you they’re the premier player in their field (if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?). With that in mind, I offer an objective overview of a handful of exchanges that, while indeed major players and worthy of mention, are only a few of the options available to you and your buying team.


Owned by Microsoft since 2007, AdECN delivers a large variety of targeting options (including contextual, behavioral, and keyword) and a real-time operating system that the company says conducts and closes auctions for ad impressions within about 12 milliseconds after an Internet user arrives at a Web page.

AdECN calls its pricing model “value-based pricing”; through its auction system, advertisers can buy on a per-impression basis and pay only what they deem an impression to be worth to them and their clients. The potential inefficiencies of fixed-rate pricing that we’re accustomed to from working with publishers directly no longer apply. AdECN also offers a product called SpotBot that checks the history of an ad (or spot) before a bid for an impression is made. If a placement has underperformed in the past compared with others, the advertiser’s bid is automatically reduced “in proportion to its performance.”

The ADSDAQ Exchange

ContextWeb’s ADSDAQ Exchange takes top honors for having the most appropriate name. Countless parallels have been drawn between ad exchanges and the stock market in terms of how they operate, and ADSDAQ doesn’t want you to forget it. The company has “taken great pains to define and differentiate exchanges from networks” and deliver clarity to marketers swimming in muddy waters.

It has done so by offering a potent combination of everything we’re looking for quality, volume, and flexibility. There are over 7,000 publishers participating in the exchange, resulting in more than 103 million monthly unique visitors. ADSDAQ touts itself as “brand safe” based on its multiple targeting options, which include contextual (page-level) targeting, keyword targeting, behavioral targeting, and dayparting.

The DoubleClick Advertising Exchange

There’s no question that DoubleClick’s exchange (owned by Google since its recent acquisition) appeals to advertisers in large part because of its integration with the DART for Advertisers platform. If you’re already using DART to manage your online campaigns, a partnership with this exchange is virtually seamless. Not only does it create more efficiencies within the buying process, but it also streamlines campaign reporting — a big plus for busy buyers.

Granted, DoubleClick’s Exchange has been in business for less than two years. But it isn’t as though the company is a startup. DoubleClick brings to the exchange marketplace knowledge of the similar ad network space that goes back over a decade.

Right Media Exchange (RMX)

Some think of RMX, owned by Yahoo since 2007, as a founding father of ad exchanges as we know them. This player, which has been in business since 2005, now trades more than 6 billion transactions between about 50,000 buyers and sellers on a daily basis.

Protecting your client’s brand and facilitating easy reporting are both priorities here. RMX operates as an open and transparent exchange, making it easy for clients to ensure their advertising is perfectly placed. Additionally, RMX arms its advertisers with URL-level targeting to reduce the odds that their creative will end up alongside inappropriate or damaging content. That said, there’s no denying this exchange is about scale and can be of particular value to direct response advertisers looking for low-cost inventory — and lots of it.

The ad exchange space is clearly one to watch. Aside from offering a different way to buy and sell advertising — one with the potential to create more efficient and cost-effective campaigns — exchanges are gathering momentum through plenty of industry attention. It’s time for us to propel things even further forward by exchanging our old media standbys for new opportunities and our misgivings for exchange-based campaigns.

Join us for ClickZ Presents: Online Marketing Summit, September 25 at the Sheraton San Diego.

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