Why Your CMS Is Not An Ad Server

If you're new to ad serving, you're probably interested in knowing why your CMS (content management system) differs from an ad server. Chances are you're using a CMS already, and that it meets your site's needs.

So is it possible to configure your CMS to serve ads?

Not really. While there is some overlap between a CMS and an ad server, they are intended for different uses:

1. A CMS is designed to serve content that doesn't need to change with each request.

By request, we mean each time a browser reaches out to a server to get the content and render it as a page.

In most cases, a CMS serves HTML pages and related content like images, HTML5 videos, etc. and it will have built-in tools that make it easy to manage the content. The big three— WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla— all do a great job at this, and they are also specialized to deliver specific types of web content: blogs, landing pages, large, complex enterprise sites, etc.

But no CMS is specialized at serving ads, no matter if those ads are banners, native units, or full-out sponsored content.

2. Ads have different requirements than static web content.

Advertisers need to track metrics that most CMS' won't offer: clicks, conversions, impressions for individual units on a page, viewable impressions, and more.

Even more importantly, ads aren't served the same way to all users.

In the simplest ad serving scenarios, a website might sell an ad unit and use their CMS to add a banner to the page, creating a placement. When that sponsorship expires, they will sell another ad and update their CMS accordingly.

But most sites want to sell more than one unit at a time, which requires rotation. And nowadays most ads are precisely targeted to users through retargeting, behavioral targeting, location targeting, and ad sold via real-time bidding. A CMS cannot support that— either for banners or native ads.

3. CMS Add-Ons Are Ad Servers

Most add-ons that enable a CMS to serve ads (like WordPress plugins) are actually just interfaces for an ad server. For instance, Adzerk has a plugin for Drupal developed by that community. However, using the plug requires an Adzerk account, so ad servers never leave the equation.

Also, plugins are limited in their functionality. An ad server that includes an API (like Adzerk) can offer more options for integration with your CMS than a third-party plugin. You can serve ads via Javascript tags, Python or Ruby libraries, mobile SDKs, or write your own code to ping the API directly.

Choosing an Ad Server

The right ad server for you will let you seamlessly integrate the ad units you want (such as native ads, sponsored listings, promoted content, and internal promotions) straight into your CMS. The most robust way to acheive this is through server-side ad insertion accomplished via APIs.

If this interests you, please get in touch with our solution engineers, and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction.