Ad Networks: What’s The Difference Between Publisher and Advertiser?

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There are many different factors involved in online advertising, but the two most prevalent terms you will hear are: advertisers and publishers.

This terminology can be perplexing for someone who is just starting out in the world of online marketing. Trying to understand all of the jargon, such as “ad networks” and “affiliate marketing,” can be difficult, especially if you are a complete newbie, but lucky for you, we are here to help.

We’ll look closely at the advertiser-publisher connection and show you not just what they are but also how they interact with one another. To market successfully online, you must use a variety of ways, but the relationship between an advertiser and a publisher is critical.

So, let’s take a closer look at what these terminologies imply.

Who is an Advertiser?

An individual or a corporate company who is eager to offer its goods or services to a large number of people. They pay to show their offers to users who are more likely to purchase their products. Interactions are generally measured by views, clicks, downloads, or eventually – conversions.

Basically, an advertiser is someone who has a product or service to market and requires ad space to do so. 

So, an advertiser pays to have their adverts displayed, and they can also be referred to as a merchant or a store. An advertiser gets money by selling the advertised goods, which is known as ROI (return on investment) — they pay money to design and display ads to help sell their product, and how much money they gain is decided by how successful the ads are.

Advertisers will create advertisement campaigns using platforms such as Google AdWords.

Advertisers can be small individual affiliates or larger corporations, but their goal is to sell items and services through internet adverts, which is where publishers come in.

Who is the Publisher?

Advertisers pay to have their ads displayed, but they also need a place to display them.

Publishers (or webmasters) are individuals who assist advertisers with potential clients by driving traffic to the advertisers’ products (offers). They own websites or social network profiles, where they can include ads so that users can see the offers of advertisers.

A publisher is basically a person or company who displays ads in their digital space. 

They connect the user (someone who would buy a product or service) with the advertiser and generate money by displaying these ads on their website, typically through CPC or CPA offers via an ad network.

In theory, any website owner can become a publisher. They could be an affiliate running a product review site, a reseller, or even a website that is just relevant to the niche on which the advertiser wishes to promote their items.

There are different types of publishers that you should be aware of. This could include ‘media buyers’ who buy traffic through ad networks or ‘webmasters’ generating organic traffic through SEO initiatives.

What is the distinction between a publisher and an advertiser?

An advertiser could be an app (such as a mobile game or an e-commerce platform) or a business that wants consumers to see their message. A publisher is a location to display that message to a viewership that the advertiser wishes to convert.

But… It is possible to be both an advertiser and a publisher. 

If an app runs its own adverts while also hosting ads, it is both an advertiser and a publisher.

What exactly is the difference between a publisher and a network?

When an app decides to execute an advertising campaign, it must collaborate with publishers who are prepared to display the app’s message to the general audience. On the other hand, apps do not normally send their video ads and banners directly to the publisher. 

On the other hand, an ad network comes in and connects developers and agencies with the publisher. The publisher joins the network and grants the network permission to utilize its ‘inventory’ to advertise.

How do advertisers make money?

We now know that businesses and government entities pay to display their offers loaded with valuable goods and services. 

In fact, they pour significant sums of money into promotion. By 2022, the global Internet display advertising market is expected to reach $176 million. Read more about affiliate marketing stats in this post.

When visitors come across an offer that piques their interest, they may decide to purchase something from the advertiser. That is when a merchant receives the funds. Profit is generated when goods and services are sold. Advertisers use ROI to determine whether their actions are profitable or whether they have spent more money on advertising than they have earned.

Sometimes the goal is brand exposure, but in the end, all commercial companies want to make a profit.

Let’s now address a similar issue with Publishers.

Who are the publishers in an ad network?

We learned that advertisers are purchasing the audience’s attention in the form of views, clicks, opt-ins, or downloads. It is reasonable to presume that they obtain it from publishers. Who exactly are they? What exactly do they sell?

Here’s the key to understanding the distinction between advertisers and publishers. Publishers are the ones who run websites and are prepared to display offers to their target audience.

Publishers choose the ideal location for an advertising unit on a web page. They sign up for an ad network and select the ad format they want to use on the website. Experienced publishers expertly integrate numerous ad styles to maximize revenue from ad rotation while minimizing user annoyance.

Advertisers vs. Publishers:

The trick is that both of these parties must collaborate in order to be successful and achieve positive results.

Advertisers need publishers because they own the websites or social profiles that will display offers to their audience.

Publishers will assist advertisers in setting the best bids and generating the most qualified traffic to deliver a 100% fill rate with ads for the publishers.

Another important element to note is that advertisers will profit from the ROI and sales of their items, while publishers will profit from the publication of the advertisement.


Advertisers and publishers have distinct differences, and for both to be successful, they must collaborate.

Advertisements are essential in online marketing. Advertisers supply the content, while publishers supply the traffic. The key problem for an advertiser is to create an appealing reward offer that is appealing to both a publisher to drive traffic to their ads and to them to profit from the campaign.

Publishers are frequently concerned with receiving a decent offer from an advertiser so that it is worthwhile for them to drive (and buy) traffic to it.

These are the fundamentals of working as an advertiser or publisher. Online marketing relies on completing these tasks successfully, and a strong working relationship is built. 


I hope this article helped you understand the role of each party in this complex game called “affiliate marketing.”

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Elizabeth Sramek
Elizabeth is a Senior Content Manager at Scaleo. Currently enjoying the life in Prague and sharing professional affiliate marketing tips. She's been in the online marketing business since 2006 and gladly shares all her insights and ideas on this blog.
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