5 min read

JSON Ad Servers - Why You Need to Implement One

Alex Carl
Alex Carl
Updated on
July 1, 2015
Use Case

JSON ad serving is a relatively new technique, but it's incredibly powerful for publishers who want to ingest ad contents directly into their CMS or app. While the ad industry is accumstomed to using JavaScript (or HTML) tags as the standard means of delivering ads, more and more publishers are discovering the advantages of receiving raw data as a JSON object.

What is JSON?

JSON is an acronym for "JavaScript Object Notation". It is an open standard data format that uses objects made from key/value pairs with the goal of being human readable.

JSON ad serving uses the JSON format as a technique to deliver ad contents directly into a publisher's system. When an ad request is made (via a browser call to the ad server's API), the JSON response will contain the contents of the creative file and metadata about the creative (such as the advertiser, campaign, etc.)

A common misconception about JSON is that it is limited to use with JavaScript. In fact, JSON is the most common format used in Ajax techniques, passing data from server to client in real-time. Any language can take advantage of the JSON format.

By itself, JSON cannot load an ad on a page the way JavaScript tags will deliver an ad when called. But JSON is far more flexible than other ad delivery methods:

Advantages of JSON ad serving

  • Integrate native ads into your CMS or app. Since JSON allows the delivery of any number of content types, you can insert a native article, feature, video etc. directly into your system. Since your site or app isn't loading external content, the placement will be customized to appear to be completely native.
  • Deliver custom creative types with ease. JSON is adept at delivering ads with unusual requirements, like ads that call an internal database to load their content, ads that appear as push notificatons, etc. This is because the data in a JSON ad is accessible to any part of your site or app. * Serve any type of mobile ad. Mobile ad serving doesn't have to be limited to slim banners at the top or bottom of the screen. JSON lets you serve ads inside the app, serve full-screen interstitials, or any unit native to your app.
  • Take full control of the delivery process. For example, you serve a JSON text ad across dozens of sites and style it using the theme of the current page. Or, you can make Ajax requests based on user behavior without waiting for a pageload.

JSON ads let you create real native advertising units

Publishers can find plenty of options that allow them to integrate "native ads" into their site via JavaScript tags. These are usually widgets that offer top headlines or similar news from around the web. Much of the time, the content of the ads comes from the same clickbaity sources that clutter up display inventory.

Still, implementing these should build revenue in ways display ads can't, right?

Not exactly. There are two problems with these "faux native" units:

  1. Most of the time, their content isn't actually native. For example, the network will serve the same testosterone-boosting ads regardless of their audience or the vertical of their site. This is little better than tapping into the most generic of ad networks with the lowest CPMs.
  2. Not only is the content not native, but neither is the form of the ads. Web users aren't stupid. They are learning to recognize which part of the page is content and which is text-based advertising. Font changes and eye-popping images distract them from the experience of browsing the page, and in time these ads are as glossed over as any of the standard banner units.
The only way to display truly native ads that blend in with organic content is to use an ad server API and request the ad before compiling your content.

What are my next steps?

If you're still unsure of what to do next, we are more than happy to set up a 15-min consultation to walk through your needs and discuss the best path forward. We wish you the best in your quest to launch an ad server!

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