What Is an Insertion Order, and How Do You Prepare One?

An insertion order (IO) is a document publishers and advertisers use to formalize their agreement to purchase ad space.

In this post, we’ll answer the question of “What is an insertion order?” in-depth, define its uses, advantages, and drawbacks, and show you how to create one for yourself.

Key Takeaways

  • An insertion order (IO) is a legally binding contract between an advertiser and media company that outlines the details for executing a successful advertising campaign.
  • Benefits of using an insertion order include providing assurance, increasing transparency, creating clear expectations between both parties, and detailing specific advertising terms to reduce disputes.
  • Drawbacks include time/resource investment and tricky negotiations. Demand for insertion orders has also decreased due to the changing media landscape moving away from traditional purchasing methods.
  • To create an insertion order, one should identify their ads’ goals and reach, then budget accordingly. After that, negotiate the specifics with stakeholders before formally reviewing and accepting tasks associated with running the ad campaign in an insertion order document.
what is an insertion order

Definition of Insertion Order

An insertion order is a document that outlines the terms of a contract between publishers (ad sellers) and advertisers (ad buyers). The IO includes details such as the length of time ad campaigns will run, how much it will cost, what type of ad it is (banner ad, video ad, etc.), how many impressions it will generate, and any other relevant information. It also serves as a legal record of the transaction between the two parties.

What Should an Insertion Order Contain?

An insertion order is important for both parties to ensure everyone involved understands their rights and obligations. The insertion order contains all the details about a campaign, including size, duration, cost, payment terms, target audience, timing, and more.

Here’s a look at what traditional insertion orders might contain:

  • Start date
  • End date
  • Media platforms
  • Target audience
  • Size and number of ads
  • Ad placement
  • Ad revenue projections or requirements
  • Unique pricing considerations or discounts
  • Cost per placement
  • Payment terms
  • Contact details for both parties
  • Trademark protection related to using certain logos or images associated with a particular product
  • Technical requirements for displaying or running the ad, like ad unit dimensions
  • How success will be measured and reported
  • Refund and cancellation information

Benefits of Using Insertion Orders

insertion order benefits

The advantage of having an insertion order is that it is documented proof of the agreement, so there can be no disputes between the advertiser and media company or publisher regarding their deal. By doing this, it makes the entire process smoother, faster, and more reliable. Both parties always have evidence to support their claims when inconsistencies arise, which keeps everyone aligned.

Here’s a deeper look at the biggest benefits of having an insertion order:

Ensures Expectations Are Met

The insertion order provides assurance that the publisher is acting in good faith and performing their service as specified according to all agreed-upon terms and conditions. This process increases transparency and trust, making establishing a long-term partnership based on mutual agreements easier.

For example, suppose the publisher agrees to provide 10 million impressions over a certain period but only delivers 9 million impressions on schedule. In that case, they may need to issue a refund or make up for those missed impressions at a later date.

Without an IO, there would be no written proof that an agreement was made between both parties. Having an IO in place simplifies this process since all expectations are clearly outlined before purchase. Additionally, if either party fails to meet their obligations under the IO terms, they can be held accountable in court.

Outlines Crucial Details

The insertion order contains specific advertising details, such as the type of ads that should be displayed, their size and layout, the audience they are targeting, frequency with which they need to be delivered, how many impressions are expected, etc. This ensures both parties clearly understand the expected results during the ad proposal process.

Streamlines the Billing Process

Insertion orders help streamline billing processes for publishers by providing them with definitive proof of what was purchased from them. Without an insertion order, there is no guarantee that advertisers will follow through on their commitments or pay on time (or at all). An IO gives publishers a legal document they can use to ensure they get paid in full and on time to ensure a successful campaign.

Drawbacks to Using an Insertion Order

While they have their benefits, insertion orders also come with some downsides. Take a look at the cons below to decide if this document is right for you.


One downside of insertion orders is that they can require substantial time and resources to create, especially if the advertiser requires their campaigns to run across multiple media platforms. However, you can look for insertion order templates online to help make this process more efficient.

Negotiations Can Delay Campaigns

Sometimes, an advertiser or advertising agency might want to secure things like discounts or added services that the media company may not offer. Negotiations over these matters can be a lengthy process. As a result, this could potentially delay a campaign’s launch.

Not as Relevant Today

Advertisers have moved away from buying traditional media, such as television and print, in favor of digital options. Insertion order campaigns are typically more limited because of a reduced demand for their services, especially with automated programmatic advertising as competition. Programmatic advertising makes purchasing and placing ads fast and easy and eliminates the need for insertion orders.

How to Create an Insertion Order

insertion orders

Thinking about using an IO for your next campaign? Follow the insertion order best practices below to prepare a successful document that benefits both the publisher and advertiser.

Identify the Campaign Goals

Before an advertiser can plan anything, they should first identify the desired end goal from this effort. For example, are you wanting impressions or trying to raise brand awareness?

Understand the Campaign’s Reach

Another important factor to consider is how many people could potentially see the advertisements. You’ll also want to ensure they reach your target audience. Media companies specializing in various platforms can help with this due to their varied experience.

Plan an Ad Campaign Budget

Once the campaign’s goal and reach are established, it’s time to set a budget. This can help determine the type of media partner an advertiser should work with and what kind of advertisements can be created within that particular budget.

Negotiate the Specific Details of the Campaign

When it comes to creating insertion orders, negotiating everything in advance is essential. From the pricing structure and date and time of delivery expectations to the guidelines on what can and can’t be used for an advertisement, it all shapes the final product.

Review and Accept the Campaign

Once the specifics have been negotiated, the final step is to review them thoroughly and make sure everyone is in agreement. Only after both advertisers and media company agree should a contract be finalized. If something still needs work, try again.

Summing Up

So what is an insertion order? Depending on your needs, these old-school (but still helpful) documents outline what’s expected from a successful ad campaign. Insertion orders benefit both publishers and advertisers because they outline all of their respective rights and obligations regarding an advertising campaign — from size and duration to costs and performance metrics — so there’s no confusion down the line about who is responsible for what part of a campaign’s success or failure.