Email ads are paid advertisements or internal promotions you add to your emails/newsletters in order to drive more revenue. They are a way to monetize your subscriber list, in the same way you may show ads on your site or in your app.
Ultimately, if you have built a sizable email base, some brand is going to find value advertising to those users. If you send out regular emails anyway, by including ads you get instant access to a new revenue stream (at almost 100% profit).
In determining whom to sell ads to, your main options are:
Specifically, email ads run into three issues:
Why is this an issue? Because cached images prevent accurate impression reporting (you would see 1 impression, not 20K). This effectively make it impossible to track and charge on impressions.
Why is this an issue? Because it limits what ads you can show (for instance, rich media ad units are off the table).
Why is this an issue? Because geo-targeting doesn't work if all users, regardless of where they are, look like they are in Mountain View.
There are ways to circumvent caching and proxying, but you'll need to work with your email ad server to figure out the best way to do that. The short story, though, is that email ads are fundamentally more restrictive than standard ads.
You don't have to! You could work with an email ad network like LiveIntent, who would provide programmatic email ads for you.
Alternatively, you could sell your email ad inventory direct to advertisers.
Industry rates are usually in the below ranges. As you can see, inserting programmatic ads from a network has much lower eCPMs (cost per every thousand impressions), but it also involves a lot less work. For many companies, the investment in sales and ad operations teams is justified by the increase in ad rates from selling directly.
|What||eCPM||Monthly rev if sending to 1M users 4x a month|
|Programmatic Email Ads||$2 - $4||$8K - $16K|
|Direct Sold Email Ads||$8 - $15||$32K - $60K|
There are three main paths:
This is the catch-all name for the software that manages the delivery and tracking of email marketing campaigns. It could be homegrown or a 3rd-party solution like Mailgun or Mailchimp.
With an ESP, a marketer can:
The software additionally provides tools around A/B testing, GDPR compliance, unsubscribing, and so on.
Theoretically, you can use your ESP to include ads in your emails. For instance, if you only had one advertiser, and they were appearing in the same spot to everyone, you could just use an ESP to insert this.
Because of this, an ESP is not particularly suitable for managing large-scale email ad campaigns.
An email ad server is a tool for managing direct-sold and programmatic ads within your emails. It oversees:
Unlike ESPs, an email ad server has an ad decision engine. The engine ingests business rules defined by the publisher (such as enabling 1st-price auctions to increase CPMs) and advertiser goals (such as $20K spread evenly over a month), and then, out of 100s or even 10000s of ads, it chooses the right one to show in just milliseconds.
An email ad server, then, allows you to create personalized email ad experiences that won't ruin the user experience. It's great for larger brands who want to:
There are a few well-known ones, but they are limited in number:
PowerInbox and LiveIntent will be more of your standard email ad networks, while the Kevel and Passendo platforms are centered more around direct-sold email ads.
Google Ads Manager used to have this functionality but deprecated the feature in 2019.
Yes! Let’s say I’m the owner of HomeFree, a niche eCommerce site for home goods and clothing.
My board is angry about our lack of sales growth, so I decide to supplement our income by selling ads within our emails. I begin by chatting with my retailers, who would like to pay to promote their products within the daily emails I send out.
I first think about whether I can use my ESP to insert the ads. Unfortunately, in chats with the advertisers, it's clear they won't spend unless I offer:
This complexity is not something I can do with my ESP, so I realize I need an email ad server.
I decide to show direct-sold email ads using Kevel, and once done, I upload my advertisers' creatives into the system, set up my targeting and business rules, and turn the campaigns on.
If you're still unsure of what to do next, we are more than happy to set up a 15-min consultation to walk through your needs and discuss the best path forward. We wish you the best in your quest to launch an email ad server!
Chris has worked in ad tech for over twelve years in a variety of roles - giving him customer support, PM, and marketing perspectives from both the advertiser and publisher sides. He's the VP of Marketing at Kevel.