5 min read

Why You Should Use an Ad Server for Internal Promotions

Sarah Wheeler
Sarah Wheeler
Updated on
September 24, 2021
Intro to Ad Serving

Companies lose potential revenue daily by failing to optimize their website content. Showing the right content — such as a search result, promotion, or offer — to the right person at the right time increases engagement and sales.

The issue here is that standard content management systems (whether a third-party or homegrown CMS) struggle to incorporate user intent, first-party data, and other targeting.

The solution? Optimizing content via an ad server, which specializes in maximizing relevance and click-through-rates.

Often, people think of ad servers as tools for placing ads bought by an external advertiser alone. They are also used, however, for optimizing any type of web or app traffic. To promote new paid services, in-house/internal ads, upsells, and so on (which convert users to customers and increase sales), companies are increasingly turning to ad serving tech rather than relying on their CMS.

In this article, we define internal promotions and discuss how to optimize and serve them via an ad server.

What are internal promotions?

Companies frequently advertise their latest services, paid plans, events, and more within their website to increase paid users and drive sales. These (and more) all fall under the umbrella of “internal promotions," a broad term with multiple applications:

  1. Optimized content - To maximize revenue, it’s important to personalize the content each user sees, using information like page content, geolocation, and first-party user data. For instance, it’s in Ticketmaster’s best interest to promote an event to me that I would like and be more likely to purchase. But this is not the event everyone else should see, as their preferences may be different.


  1. In-house ads / upsells - These advertise new company services, discounts, events, and more. If targeted to users at the optimal time, these promotions can drive upsells. For example, any freemium service with a paid plan could insert promotions in a user's feed that highlight the benefits of upgrading.
  2. Partner promotions - Often, companies choose to partner for co-promotions, such as a “Special Offers” or “Top Picks for You” section. With an ad server, these partner promotions are easier to place, target, optimize, and report on. So, if Marriott partners with the Baltimore Orioles for a promotion, both partners can get reporting on how it performed.

Marriott dashboard

The benefits of using an ad server over a CMS to optimize internal promotions:

Companies usually serve internal promotions via a CMS (content management system) or inflexible third-party tools. However, CMS platforms can be difficult to manage, personalize, and scale, thus limiting revenue potential.

The main difference between a CMS and an ad server is that a CMS isn’t suited for personalizing the content each user sees (outside of search-based results). As such, they usually show the same content to every user, which isn’t ideal for internal promotions.

Additionally, marketers struggle with the manual management of a CMS, as it’s difficult to automate the starting/stopping/swapping of content. Often, something as basic as pausing a banner involves asking the engineering team to make the change — a waste of time for both teams.

On the other hand, ad servers allow for automated reporting, targeting, optimization, and management of ads. They provide features that personalize what content each user sees, leading to more engagement and revenue.

Such features include layering in first-party data; targeting around location, context, and search terms; revenue optimizations that favor promotions that perform well; and reporting for deeper analysis.


These features can increase:

  1. Revenue - Revenue optimization logic and user-level targeting means people see the content most likely to drive sales.
  2. Relevance - First-party data, contextual targeting, and more allow you to show the right promotion at the right time.
  3. Automation / Internal Productivity - Engineers are no longer needed to make changes to these promotions - leading to happier teams and faster turn-around times.
  4. Collaboration - If you’re displaying partner promotions, you’ll get robust targeting and reporting, which will benefit both you and your co-sponsor.

Using an ad server to display internal promotions

In looking back at our three use cases, then, switching to an ad server has the following benefits:

  1. Optimized internal content - CMS platforms have limited targeting, meaning companies often can’t control who sees what and when. Ad serving tools, however, personalize the content each user sees, with the goal of maximizing engagement and revenue. Targeting ensures that users see the right content at the right time (using first-parta data, context, intent, and so on), and revenue optimizations can identify what promotions are driving sales and prioritize those “ads” in real-time.


For example, Ticketmaster uses Kevel’s ad serving tools to power what events get promoted to users, with targeting logic based on past behavior, context, and what events are selling well. Switching to using an ad server versus a standard CMS for these listings increased their event click-through rates by 600%.

  1. In-house ads / upsells - With a standard CMS, in-house ads can be static, repetitive, and ineffective. An ad server, however, can optimize these internal ads with your business goals in mind. Strava, for example, uses Kevel’s ad serving APIs to insert personalized, in-feed ads upselling their paid plan. Before, as the user-base scaled, subscriptions lagged, but by using real-time optimizations to decide when to promote their paid plan, Strava saw a 700% increase in click-through rates.


  1. Partner promotions - With an ad server, American Airlines can optimize the order of the deals on their offers page, so as to maximize relevance and sales. Plus, they could provide partners like Avis and Hertz with unbiased reporting data. Previously, these promotions may have been arbitrarily listed, and reporting would be limited.

American Airlines promotions

How do I start?

Do you see opportunities for optimizing and personalizing the content on your site? If so, using an ad server to display these internal promotions could help drive new revenue for you.

It’s important, though, that you use a server-side, API-based ad server, as this is the only way to launch this program without having to change the user experience. As the leader in ad APIs, we’re happy to set up a free consultation to see how we could help.

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