Why I switched from OpenX to Google DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP)

Why would I do such a thing??!

Pretty straightforward really – I’m sorry to say this about OpenX because I really did like them for a number of years. Lately, they’re just shit. Yup, completely and utterly shit.

Ever since the name change to OpenX they’ve been going downhill, and I think nearly everyone in the community will agree with me – including some of their very own (former) developers.

Riddled with vulnerabilities, slow and non-required code and other problems we’ve probably all experienced with it. Not to mention no automatic optimization of your ad zones.

This past week, the final straw was picked. My OpenX installation was hacked, AFTER I had applied the latest security fix to it. Talking around to buddies, this happened to a number of people as well. I couldn’t believe it. Of course, I was venting my frustrations to one of my buddies and he told me he had recently switched from OpenX to Google DFP for the very same reasons.

I hadn’t even heard of Google DFP at the time. So, I went over to their site, logged in and got started creating my placements (websites), ad units (ad zones) and my orders (advertisers).

All I have to say is – WOW. It’s actually pretty cool. I remember the first times I was using OpenX it was quite complicated and difficult to understand how to setup the campaigns and the advertisers and ad units. Not so with DFP, just a few minutes of clicking and I figured it out.

Let’s take a look at the process for Google DFP versus OpenX shall we?

Google DFP Process:

  1. Login using your existing Google or Google Applications account.
  2. Click Inventory, Click Placements
  3. Create a placement (eg. Sitename.com-Sidebar)
  4. Click Ad Units
  5. Create Ad Unit (eg. Sitename.com-Sidebar-Left-125×125)
  6. Click Orders
  7. Click New Order and add your advertiser, save it, then upload your image or html for the ad.
  8. Click Inventory
  9. Click ‘Generate Tags’ and copy the code to your page.
  10. Wait 10-30 Minutes for Ads to Appear. You’re Done.

OpenX Process:

  1. Buy a Domain name for OpenX
  2. Buy Server Space for OpenX
  3. Create OpenX Database
  4. Install OpenX
  5. Setup and Configure OpenX  (gfl if on windows hosting by the by)
  6. Secure OpenX on your server.
  7. Ensure Maintanance Mode is setup for OpenX so your ads will eventually display.
  8. Now you can start setting up your ads.
  9. First Click Inventory, Then click Websites & Zones
  10. Add your website to OpenX
  11. Add zones to your website
  12. Now click back to Advertisers & Campaigns
  13. Add an Advertiser
  14. Add a Campaign to your new advertiser
  15. Add some banners to your advertisers campaign
  16. Set the zones in which your ads will appear  in banner configuration
  17. Go back to Websites and Zones
  18. Find your website and Zone
  19. Click on it, then go to the fourth tab ‘invocation code’
  20. Generate your invocation code
  21. Go and paste it into your site along with any other relevant code
  22. 10-60 minutes later your ads should start appearing.

As you can see OpenX requires a lot more clicks, typing and setup to get your ads and advertisers into the system. Nearly double in-fact. And it’s quite possible I’ve forgotten something here.

With Google DFP it’s actually much easier. Far fewer clicks are required and the added benefit that you can have it fall back to traditional Adsense ads if your network or in-house ads aren’t converting. As far as I understand their documentation the fallback will happen automatically if you select Adsense fallback when creating your ads.

There is one kind of major gotcha that I noticed thought. Due to Adsense terms and conditions, if you have more than 3 ad units on a page no ads will display, even if it’s just fallback to Adsense. Not too big of a deal but still something to note. I had to turn off Adsense fallback for all of my ads except one on the page and then all ads were displaying.

Bottom Line – Google DFP is quicker, easier, and probably far more secure than OpenX to use for your advertising delivery throughout your network. The only problems I’m having with it is the fact that it does sometimes crash Firefox or IE, but I haven’t had any problems with Chrome yet. I do wish they’d make a nice desktop application like they have for Adwords, but I’m sure that’s coming down the pipe.  One other thing I noticed is stats seem to take a long time to show up. As of this writing I’ve had DFP setup for two weeks and I still have no data available to create a report. I’m sure they’re still working out the last bugs in the system so this should be fixed soon.

Anyone else using DFP? What are your thoughts? Have you also migrated from OpenX? Let me know in the comments, I’m interested what others think of Google DFP vs OpenX.

14 Comments

  1. Good report. Does the DFP have the following features?
    1. Ability for the advertisers (advertisers who are advertising on my sites- not me)to log in and check their impressions and click thrus.
    2. Ability to limit per day number of impressions for an advertiser’s campaign (for eaxmple 20,000 impressions spread over 5 days)

  2. Well! A few points to make.

    (1) You have compared a hosted system, to a self-hosted solution; so obviously, the number of OpenX steps would be more as compared to DFP. The correct comparison would be to compare DFP with OpenX’s onRamp ( http://openx.org/networks/compare-ad-server-products ).

    (2) Remember, that Google is “BIG”, and resources is never an issue. So, very obviously, ads will render quicker, reports (eventually) won’t timeout etc.

    (3) I have not tried DFP yet, but, can you link the same ad to different/multiple Ad Units? The beauty of OpenX is that once you have defined your zones in the system, all you have to do is add campaigns and banners, and link them to the respective zones. Zone creation and setup is a one-time effort.

    There are more, but am too lazy to outline them out. 🙂

  3. 1. As far s I know you can send them reports through the system when you setup your advertisers.

    2. Yes, they have detailed targetting, and impression counting, and more options available too.

  4. haha, true, but, the hosted openX is pay (if you serve more than 1 million impressions). So, I think for this audience, the free version of OpenX was the correct one to compare against.

    In answer to your question, yup, you only have to setup the zones once and then ad your ad units to them, similar to openX.

  5. Interesting article, I was just thinking the same thing, though I’ve been thinking it over for quite some time now… as a matter of fact, I was just playing around with DFP to get the whole feel of it.
    One thing I gotta say in Openx defense is that I consider it to be more straightforward in setup than DFP; but nonetheless they both have the same possibilities and features, just the naming seem to be different 🙂
    Does anyone have had any experience as to use DFP free solution as an ad network? And by that I mean to be able to serve my own network ads to a third party website. Any thoughts will be welcomed.

  6. Big problem with DFP – it doesn’t support ads in email. Advantage OpenX.

  7. oh, good point didn’t even think of that one :/

  8. Good article.

    before I begin, in fairness, let me give a few nods to OpenX:

    Personally, I thought OpenX was easier to set up and install. I don’t like needing to place header code in order to use ads. It makes zone swapping with other websites very cumbersome!

    I liked OpenX Market (when I used it) better than Adsense. Very clean implementation and good looking ads. Good revenue and CPM reporting too.

    I think OpenX is a little faster (at least in my implementation) and more reliable. I actually still use OpenAds 2.0.11-pr1 for some of my more critical website content ads…the ones I’m not paid for and that don’t look like ads at all. In short, I use 2.0 like a CMS for some of my database driven content.

    I also have a custom behavioral targeting engine that relies on some components of 2.6.5 on another website I run. Of course those ads are all set to remnant and I do all the targeting myself so I’m not really relying on OpenX for anything except to physically push the ad.

    I miss the OpenX interface, the scheduled reporting for advertisers, the flexability and the ability to really get into the code and tweak how my content is displayed. *Sigh* ahhh, the good old days.

    ALL THAT SAID…

    I finally dumped OpenX in December because you’re right, after the name change the company and it’s products went all to shit!

    – I haven’t had a paid advertising campaign reliably deliver in nearly TWO YEARS!!!
    – Every campaign had to be accompanied by a remnant over-delivery campaign just to make sure I didn’t look stupid.
    – I paid hundreds of dollars to consultants to try to get the thing to work right, and frankly the deeper I dug the more bugs and holes I found.
    – In the end, I found myself playing musical implementations. I literally had four different versions of OpenX installed on my server at all times and I’d switch between them every two to three weeks trying out new tweaks, patches, bug fixes and upgrades in a vain effort to get the server to deliver reliably.
    – I actually had to keep a calculator and notebook nearby at all times to check the math of the OpenX server and keep track of how badly it was under-delivering my ad campaigns and I eventually created a spreadsheet to help me track my inventory and calculate the tweaks required to keep OpenX on schedule. I was wasting inventory and losing advertisers because of my spotty reliability and inability to control my inventory!
    – OpenX was ABSOLUTELY NO HELP on resolving ANY of these issues. The more former developers I spoke to about my problems, the more discouraged I became. In the end, I came to the startling conclusion that OpenX (the company) simply didn’t give a damn about their downloadable product…period! It was clear that they were willing to gut the product and let it decay in order to focus on their enterprise product.

    After the switch:

    I finally decided to make the switch when it became clear that my company would be using the Double-Click enterprise product for our own ad serving needs. They’d asked me about OpenX Enterprise some time ago, but I waved them off after seeing first hand how badly the company handled their open source product’s code.

    I started with a few low volume ad zones, unsure if I’d go through with a full-blown switch to a hosted ad server. Within 24 hours, I’d moved everything over. Within 48 hours, all my contract campaigns were delivering flawlessly! Within a week, I had reliable delivery forecast data and I could finally relax and focus on ad sales instead of ad delivery. Today, I kick myself for waiting so long to switch.

    I still miss the control and flexibility of hosting my own ad server, but I wouldn’t trade the reliability and stability of DFP for all the control in the world. I mean, what good is an ad server that can’t SERVE AN AD?

    Well, that’s my two cents anyway.

    PS – I got hacked too!

  9. Thank you for this article and all the responses.

    I’ve been debating a switch to DFP for some time now…been using OpenX 2.8.5 (and now 2.8.7) for over a year…I’ve been hacked twice.

    The other big problem I have with OpenX is that the database tables are getting HUGE…like, nearly 1GB. It’s the Statistics Tables that are so big…and I understand why given all the data is collected.

    But I simply don’t have the server space or bandwidth to push to much data and keep it stored for long periods of time.

    I think I’ll be moving to DFP for sure now.

  10. Which version of DFP are you all talking about? They were telling me that there’s a “newer” one in the works and that we can use it if we want to. Does anyone know what the heck they’re talking about?

  11. You only have to look at the support forums to see how unsupported the open source product is. Since Orange bought out OpenX it has gone downhill. You can now assume that the open source product is not only unstable, but a bad product. The only reason it is still available is so they can continue to grow their openx marketplace. Small to medium publishers that dont have as much resources are continuing to use openx download as they are unaware of DFP free version (up to 90Million impressions). However, the word is getting around.
    I was hoping that some original developers of OpenX might start a new branch of open source ad server that would take over from the openx download version, but no luck yet. It is nice to host your own ad server with better control and customisation.

  12. Apples != Oranges.

    You need to compare OpenX’s enterprise hosted solution with Google DART for publishers.

    Neither are free.

    If you want to compare Google DFP to the self-hosted software, then you should consider that OpenX supports video, DFP does not. Right there is a reason to go with OpenX over DFP.

    We are using Google DFP Small Business right now and we need to start using video ads. We cannot because the system doesn’t support it.

    So now we’re faced with either switching to DART for Publishers/Doubleclick or using OpenX Enterprise.

  13. For me.. i’m using both DFP and Openx Onram .. ( cause both free )

    dont compare openx download with DFP because if you do install your self you can not save haft way for using onram free openx version.

    For performance I vote for DFP.. that is the best ever, some time it deliver the ads faster than my own site 🙂

    -notice that if you use openx onram .. please use iframe version for code tag . that, otherwise the java code will hurt your site.

    For configuration, feature: I vote for Openx onram .. they have all you need in mind .. geoIP city, geo region, video ads, custome ads, popup, layer ad,
    limitation of dilivery is most power full: I even can setup some ads only show on normal page but not on user’s page .. by “url var ” with only one zone needed ..

    add some more user to manage my acc.. so i dont have look at it all the time.. ( download version )

    .. many more. just try your self

    suggesion: for people love free, low cost product..
    1 – go to pdf if you are small network not much ads need to manage, (90M impress limit)
    2 – go for hosted openx onram if you need
    around 100M impress, and more complex contrl your ads

    3- go for openx download version . full control, but have cost for server.. magaging..

    at last – Go for DART google ( if you got good budget to start .


    love from http://www.gameavatar.mobi

  14. AdStract (www.adstract.com) launched a new platform which increases revenues for publishers (SSP). Publishers can manage all their current networks through one tag, while thousands of ad sources compete against your current networks for increased returns with no downside. AdStract optimizes ad placement between publishers’ networks and its direct bidders, serving the highest valued advertisement for each impression – a true Win-Win for the publisher.


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