The Pros and Cons of Using Insertion Orders

The Pros and Cons of Using Insertion Orders

An insertion order (IO) is exactly what it sounds like.

It’s an agreed-upon order given by an advertiser (or their agency) for an advertisement to be inserted on a publisher’s site(s). IOs represent legal documentation of how an adverting campaign is to be carried out, from ad specifications to pricing and campaign timing.

In short, IOs are old school. In a digital advertising world that continues to move towards programmatic buying, IOs offer advertisers and publishers some measure of control on how advertisements are bought and sold.

However, this control does come at a price.

The following pro and con list will break it all down, allowing you to better understand what IOs offer and what they don’t.


The Pros

The Assurance of Control

Insertion orders allow all the parameters of an ad campaign to be agreed upon in advance. The price can be set, the start and end date can be tailored to specific seasonal considerations, and even the impressions served can be determined – all before the campaign goes live.

Both the advertiser and publisher know exactly what they’re getting before they get it. It’s assurance. It’s control.

The Devil is in the Details

Coinciding with greater control, IOs allow an attention to the finer details of an ad campaign. Say you want to establish a dynamic pricing structure with monetized incentives? You can simply write that into the agreement. What gets signed is what gets implemented.

Every little detail can be modified to maximize the effectiveness of your campaign.

An Alignment of Goals

Insertion orders provide advertisers and publishers with an opportunity to work together. Rather than leaving the buying process up to automated computers, IOs force advertisers and publishers to both come to the table, allowing for the specific discussion of terms and parameters.

By having these conversations, advertisers and publishers are more likely to effectively agree on goals, resulting in a tailored approach to meet these goals.


The Cons

It’s Slower

Insertion orders require work… from humans. Someone has to write it. Someone has to approve it. Someone has to contact the publisher and settle on a time for negotiation. An agreement has to be made. All in all, the entire buying process can be weighed down by these necessary human interactions.

Meanwhile, automated buying systems are completing this process in mere milliseconds.

Agree to Disagree

For an IO to be signed, there first has to be an agreement. In a perfect world agreements are always possible, but as we well know that isn’t always the case. If advertisers and publishers come to the table with different expectations, lengthy negotiations could follow suit. These negotiations take time. They cost money and man-hours.

What was supposed to be a simple agreement can dissolve into vicious bureaucratic squabbling, sending all potential profits down the drain in the process.

Limited Publisher Base

By relying on insertion orders to strike buying agreements with publishers, you are ultimately limiting who you can sell your ads to.

Why? Because automated buying exposes your ads to hundreds of potential publishers in seconds. To write an insertion order, you first have to find the publisher you want to engage with.

Unless you have thousands of hours to evaluate and contact every possible publisher, your publisher base will be decidedly smaller.


What concerns do you have about the shift away from IOs to a more programmatic environment? Let us know in the Comment section.
Cameron Fitchett
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