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An ad exchange is a technology that facilitates automated, real-time auctions for online advertising. Publishers sell open ad spaces on websites to advertisers in real-time – it happens incredibly fast, just as a web page is loading. The matching of advertisements with ad spaces is similar to the “stock exchange” in the stock market, with buyers and sellers negotiating prices that fluctuate in real-time. Because the entire transaction is automated, it is an efficient process for publishers to sell their inventory without a huge sales team and for advertisers to buy ad spaces or impressions.

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