Ultimate Guide to Insertion Orders (IO)

Brock Munro
March 4, 2021
April 16, 2024
Ultimate Guide to Insertion Orders (IO)

Table of content:

Insertion Orders (IO) - Everything you need to know

What is an Insertion Order (IO)?

Why Insertion Orders Matter in advertising campaign?

What Are the Benefits of an Insertion Order?

What Are the Disadvantages of an IO?

How to Prepare an IO

Insertion Order Best Practices for Publishers

Wrap Up

Insertion Orders (IO) - Everything you need to know

The world is run by paperwork. There is always a form to fill out for even the simplest things. The online advertising world is no different. The modern ad industry is coming up with innovative ways to keep records for agreements and business transactions. This is where insertion orders come in.

What is an Insertion Order (IO)?

An insertion order in online advertising is the contract (or template) that provides the specifics of an advertising deal between an advertiser and a publisher. It is the final step of a direct deal in an ad proposal process, which when confirmed and signed, seals a commitment from an agency, brand, or company to run ad campaigns on the publisher’s website(s). 

Generally, IOs (insertion orders) will contain details including:

  • Name of the ad campaign
  • Start date
  • End date
  • Name & contact details of the advertiser or agency
  • Name & details of publisher
  • Ad target audience
  • Placement details of ad
  • Ad pricing structure, budget & cost
  • Total cost & discount etc. 

An IO can be prepared by the advertiser or publisher. If the advertiser is a larger agency, the insertion order (IO) will be prepared by that advertising agency.

If, however, the advertiser is represented by a smaller agency or there is no agency involvement, any party can prepare an IO for the advertiser to sign.


What an insertion order contains and looks like

As far as what an insertion order looks like, an IO should contain all the necessary information related to the given agreement between the advertiser and the publisher.

However, there is no universal format or uniform documentation since each agreement may differ. To get an idea of what one looks like, here is a sample below:


Insertion order template sample

Image Source: Template.net

Why Insertion Orders Matter in advertising campaign?

An insertion order is essentially a form of assurance. The parameters of an advertiser’s campaign with a publisher can be set and agreed upon in advance.

Right before the campaign goes live, the budgets, start and end dates, and even all of the impressions served can be decided. Both parties know what they are getting before it begins. This way, the publisher can rely on the ad revenue, manage their cash flow, and even leverage that to attract more advertisers. 

More than anything, an insertion order provides publishers and advertisers with the opportunity to work together. Unlike an automated process, insertion orders ensure both the advertiser and publisher can go over specific terms and parameters to agree on all the details and goals. 

What Are the Benefits of an Insertion Order?

Some of the benefits that an insertion order offers include:

1. Contains specific advertising details 

A typical IO should contain every detail involved in an advertising proposal for the publisher and advertiser to know what exactly they are getting.

2. The agreement is customizable 

Since IOs allows both parties to work together, the agreement is extremely customizable, making the deal beneficial to both parties. Publishers can modify the kind of ads they run, as long as the advertiser understands every detail, and use the ad revenue to attract new clients.

3. Serves as deal confirmation

Insurance orders set the parameters to be followed before the deal closes. This allows both parties to keep control of their businesses and avoid future misunderstandings or problems. The parties may then enter into a long term partnership.

4. Prevents ad fraud

Publishers lose $1.27 billion yearly to ad fraud according to a new study by 16 leading programmatic publishers across 26 domains. Deals involving insertion orders greatly reduce fraud risks because advertisers (or agencies) and publishers sit together to bring about a sense of security.

What Are the Disadvantages of an IO?

While there are benefits to using insertion orders, there can be some potential downsides as well. Many publishers are opting for programmatic buying instead because of the tedious and long wait times involved when dealing with insertion orders.

The programmatic advertising environment involves valuable tools such as artificial intelligence, which replaces regular manual processes with automated channels, real-time bidding for on-demand ad placements, and considerably improved reporting opportunities. Some downsides of using insertion orders are:

1. Slow preparation 

The preparation and processing of traditional insertion orders requires intervention from human resources. A person prepares it, another approves it, even before the advertiser and publisher come together to discuss specifics about the deal. Each added step can slow down the whole process. 

2. Demand for IOs is shrinking 

IO agreements are old school. There is a new, trendy and automated method in programmatic advertising.

Programmatic advertising is currently at the center of digital display ad buy as it involves a data-driven process that places ads based on end-user information and demographic with live availability updates. 

Publishers and advertisers find automated methods more advantageous, as they are easy and lightning-fast - this is limiting the demand for IOs. 

3. Negotiations can be tricky 

For an insertion order to be in motion, there has to be an agreement. In a perfect world, agreements are possible, but not always. Advertisers and publishers might bring different expectations to the table and, if one party does not compromise. then it will lead to lengthy negotiations at a high cost. This way, a long lasting partnership might not happen. 

How to Prepare an IO

There are different insertion Order templates online, including free and paid options. However, Google and Bing offer easy ways to create an insertion order quickly. There are some common elements which are expected to be presented in an insertion order such as:

1. Contact information

A self-explanatory part of the IO process. It is split into two parts, where the first part includes the advertiser’s contact information stating the name, address, website, phone, email, and date. The second type consists of the billing contact, i.e. who deals with payment or an accounting issue.

2. Creatives

This part contains creative elements of each campaign, and it includes details such as the ad size, dimension, format, and other important specifications. 

3. Ad Campaign details 

An advertiser provides information about the campaign. The start date, end date, number of impressions, desired page on the publisher’s site that the ads will run on, ad unit dimensions, ad placement, geo-targeting, target audience, budget, and all the details. The IO serves as the comprehensive agreement between both the parties. As such, every modification to the deal has to be put into writing and signed. 

Insertion Order Best Practices for Publishers

An Insertion order should be straightforward. However, any confusion that may come up must be cleared before the Insertion order is signed and the ad campaign started.

Since an insertion order is documented proof of an ad proposal, before signing, both the publisher and advertiser need to go over every detail thoroughly to avoid future disagreements.

Publishers also need to have realistic expectations and understanding of their ad inventory. For example, publishers shouldn’t oversell by displaying more impressions than they normally receive during the inventory selling process.

Instead of going with fixed amounts, it is best to specify clear ranges based on historical data coupled with a dynamic pricing structure.

Both sides should have a clear idea (and a list) of monetized incentives and exactly what they want or need to gain from the proposed advertising campaign.

Wrap Up

While IOs can sound like a stressful, extra step in an ad campaign, it still has numerous benefits. For a publisher, it can be useful for auditing purposes, and is a helpful way to run  a well-monitored, successful campaign. For advertisers, it can be a great way to manage ad spend and budget through a publisher's platform.

If you’re making more than $2,000 in monthly ad revenue, contact us today to learn more about how Publift can help increase your ad revenue and best optimize the ad space available on your website or app.

Grow with us

Grow your business with a sustainable, long term partnership. If you're making more than $2,000 in monthly ad revenue, contact us today to boost your revenue with our all-in-one solution.
Laptop screen with web page open

Success Stories