Ad network vs. Ad exchange

If you’re confused about how a network and exchange differ, you wouldn’t be the first. There’s definitely some overlap, and some companies even offer both services, further blurring the lines in digital advertising. But even though a network may perform many of the same tasks as an exchange, there is a difference.

The difference is that ad networks aggregate ad inventory from publishers and resell it to advertisers, making them a key player in the transaction with something to gain. An ad exchange is a marketplace where publishers and advertisers can find and make advertising deals, similar to a stock exchange. It does not play a role in the actual transaction.

A network will control all pieces of the marketplace, while the exchange is an agnostic platform. The majority of networks restrict each transaction to three players: a buyer, the network and a seller. In comparison, while the network acts on behalf of buyers and sellers, an exchange offer a technology platform where advertisers, publishers and even networks can buy and sell ads. Every impression can have many traders.

To find out which ad tech vendors are networks, exchanges or both, sign into the new Digital Networks & Tech database at today.

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