What is an Ad Insertion Order?

Insertion order

When an advertiser wants to place an ad on a publisher’s website, the ad insertion order governs the agreement. It details the deployment of an ad campaign and includes dates, pricing, and any ad specifications.

Having an ad insertion order for online advertising creates a legal agreement between both parties and spells out the relationship for both parties. An ad insertion order is the final step in a direct deal between publishers and advertisers.

Insertion Order Fundamentals

Ad insertion orders have been around for a long time. They can be simple and straightforward or complex, depending on the agreements made. Once both parties sign off, the advertiser commits to paying for the ad campaign, and the publisher commits to running it.

Typical insertion orders will include:

  • Start date and end date
  • Ad units, including dimension
  • Ad placement
  • Pricing structure
  • Ad campaign cost
  • Target audiences
  • Flight dates (if applicable)

How to Prepare an Insertion Order

Most publishers and ad advertising agencies have standard ad insertion orders at the ready, so advertisers can request them. In many cases, account executives will fill them out or make them available digitally. You can also download ad insertion order templates to use.

While the ad insertion order you use may look slightly different, it needs to include contact information for both parties and the details both sides need to fulfill the agreement. For example, an ad insertion order must include ad sizes, formats, and any specific requirements.

All contact information must be added to the insertion order for both parties. The campaign details should be fully listed within the insertion order, including start & end dates, budget, target audience, number of impressions, and any demographics or geo-targeting information necessary to run the campaign. It also needs to include the total cost of the ad spend along with the standard terms.

By spelling out the details, an ad insertion order for online advertising works similar to how a purchase order would work for one business to buy goods from another.

An ad insertion order is only necessary when advertisers and publishers have a direct deal. In programmatic advertising, for example, algorithms make deals automatically based on parameters set by advertisers and publishers. There is no need for an ad insertion order with programmatic buys.

With programmatic advertising now accounting for 90% of all digital display ad revenue in 2022 and forecast to exceed $493 billion globally in spending this year, you can see that the majority of ad buys are not using traditional ad insertion orders.

Best Practices for Ad Insertion Orders

However, if you are using ad insertion orders (IOs), it’s a fairly straightforward process. By following a few best practices, both advertisers and publishers can make sure ad campaigns run smoothly.

Discuss in this section that insertion orders don’t need to be difficult. Describe the following best practices to follow when using an ad insertion order:

  • Ad insertion orders should be clear on all details of the arrangement.
  • Each party should read and review all aspects of the IO and make corrections or request clarifications as necessary before signing.
  • Each party should only sign the IO once they are 100% satisfied with the terms of the arrangement.
  • Publishers should remain realistic with pricing and expectations. Ad impressions based on historical data are only guidelines and are not guaranteed, so revenues are also not guaranteed—unless that’s specifically stated in your arrangement.
  • Advertisers may want to add additional details, such as frequency caps, to avoid ads running too often. For example, if there is heavy traffic to a site with caps per user or per day, an entire budget could be spent in a few days rather than spread out over your flight dates.
  • The same applies to impression caps. If your impression cap is met early in the flight, ad dollars may not be spent evenly through the ad campaign.
  • Keep in mind that the tighter the constraints, the more difficult it will be to deliver. Publishers and advertisers should use forecasting tools to estimate available inventory and placements before agreeing to the ad insertion order.
  • Publishers and advertisers should monitor campaign delivery while in flight to ensure proper execution. Because of variables in users and other factors, campaigns can underdeliver, which doesn’t benefit either party.
  • The deal is done when an ad insertion order ends. So, if either party needs to make changes, such as expanding windows or extending deals, it’s better to do it while the campaign is still in progress and have both sides sign off on the changes.

Advantages of Using an Ad Insertion Order

There are benefits to using an ad insertion order. Perhaps the biggest one is that it provides a sense of security between publisher and advertiser. Advertisers know when they submit an ad insertion order that the publishers are committing to running their ads under the parameters they set. Publishers have a documentation paper trail that shows an ad agency or advertiser’s commitment to pay for the ads at the agreed-upon rate.

The agreement makes it clear what everybody’s responsibility is, so it can strengthen the professional relationship and increase monetization. It makes sure everyone knows what is expected.

Ad insertion orders can also help prevent ad fraud. Advertisers know where their ads will run in direct deals.

Insertion orders can also be flexible. While the basic information stays, the same, publishers and advertisers are free to create custom ad campaigns that cover any variety of things as long as both parties agree. And, because everything is in writing, there are no surprises.

Disadvantages to Using an Ad Insertion Order

However, there are also some disadvantages to using an ad insertion order.

The major downside of an insertion order is that it takes time to pull together. Someone has to prepare them and ensure nothing is amiss. Both sides have to review them and agree to the parameters. Time can sometimes be an impediment when the two parties want to move fast.

Insertion orders aren’t as simple to create as proposals or estimates because they contain very specific information. If an ad insertion order is prepared and publishers and advertisers do not come to an agreement during negotiations, the deal won’t get done. In that case, the effort expended in creating the insertion order will have been wasted.

Because of this, IOs typically aren’t created until after the deal is finalized. However, this can also add time to the equation. Once the parties agree on a proposal, both sides have to examine the ad insertion order to ensure it accurately depicts what has been agreed upon. Making sure every line item is accurate and has the information required to run effective ad campaigns takes time.

With the rise of programmatic advertising, IOs are quickly becoming old school. An entire generation of ad agency reps and advertisers have never used or seen an ad insertion order because they’ve grown up in the business only using programmatic ad placement. In the future, most direct deals are likely to be replaced with private deals. Even between advertisers and specific publishers, transactions will occur in a private marketplace (PMP). This means insertion orders might no longer be needed in the future.

You can learn more about private marketplaces and other forms of programmatic deals in our guide, 4 Types of Programmatic Advertising & How to Use Them.


Ad insertion orders clarify the relationship between advertisers and publishers in a direct deal. They spell out the commitments and expectations of an ad campaign for each side. Everything is detailed in advance so that both parties to the IO have a clear understanding of what the agreement will include.

If you need help with ad insertion orders or would prefer not to use them at all, the online advertising experts at Newor Media can help provide clarity between advertisers and publishers, with or without the use of insertion orders. Newor’s experience in connecting parties together will benefit publishers by simplifying the process of securing advertising and facilitating ad campaigns.

Dario Osowski

Senior Account Manager, Publisher Development: Newor Media

Dario is an ad tech superhero who is innovative and has solved complex technical and business matters that have generated high revenue growth for publishers. He has a strong technical background, provides technical concierge support, is highly analytical and solution-oriented. Dario currently works at Newor Media, where he provides technical and business support and solutions to publishers to generate the best revenue growth outcome in yield optimization management in the programmatic universe.