What is a demand-side platform (DSP)?

A Demand-Side Platform (DSP) is a type of software used by advertisers to purchase digital advertising inventory in an automated way. DSPs allow buyers of digital ad space to manage multiple ad exchange and data exchange accounts through one interface.

Here are the key functions and features of a DSP:

  1. Automated Ad Buying: DSPs enable advertisers to buy ad placements in real-time through automated bidding processes, known as real-time bidding (RTB). This allows for more efficient and targeted ad spending.
  2. Audience Targeting: DSPs use data from various sources to target specific audience segments. This can include demographic data, behavioral data, and contextual data to ensure that ads are shown to the most relevant audiences.
  3. Inventory Access: Through a DSP, advertisers can access a wide range of ad inventory across different ad exchanges and publishers, including display, mobile, video, and social media ads.
  4. Performance Tracking and Optimization: DSPs provide detailed analytics and reporting tools, allowing advertisers to track the performance of their ad campaigns in real-time. They can also optimize campaigns on the fly to improve effectiveness and return on investment (ROI).
  5. Integration with Data Management Platforms (DMPs): DSPs often integrate with DMPs, which collect and manage data about users to improve ad targeting. This integration allows for more precise audience segmentation and targeting.

Overall, DSPs are essential tools for modern digital advertising, helping advertisers to efficiently and effectively reach their desired audiences at scale.

What is a self-serve DSP?

A self serve DSP is a platform for automatic ad buying through RTB auctions in which the advertiser directly manages the campaigns via the DSP’s UI (user interface/dashboard). The “self serve” nature is in contrast to managed-service DSPs, in which advertisers do not have direct access to the DSP’s User Interface / dashboard. In a managed service DSP, advertisers’ campaigns are instead managed by the DSP’s digital marketing professionals (often called Account Managers), who operate as intermediaries between advertisers and the DSP. With self serve DSPs, once you sign up for the platform, everything is up to you: uploading creative, setting parameters for bids, and so forth. The benefit of self serve demand side platform advertising management is that it affords transparency and control over ad campaigns, to the advertiser directly (as opposed to working with an intermediary). The downside of a self serve is that the advertiser does not benefit from the expertise of an account manager. It also requires more of the advertisers’ time and attention to build, monitor, and optimize campaigns, as opposed to having a marketing professional at the DSP provide this service.

What is a white label DSP?

A white label DSP platform is ready-made AdTech that you can buy or license and rebrand as your own. Essentially, it splits the difference between creating your own DSP from scratch and working with a self serve DSP. This highly customizable option bypasses the time and financial investment required to launch a proprietary DSP. It’s a fast, economical solution for programmatic advertising.

Demand-side platform companies

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of dealing with a DSP is correctly identifying what companies actually are DSPs. According to a report from Advertiser Perceptions, fewer than 25% of advertisers knew what a DSP was, and therefore couldn’t properly identify DSP examples. There is some confusion around what it means to be a “DSP ad network” which is worth an explanation.

A DSP and an ad network are actually on the opposite sides the programmatic ecosystem: a DSP is a demand-side platform for advertisers to buy ad space (aka “DSP media buying”), and an ad network relates to the supply-side, as a collection of ad inventory for publishers to sell ad space.

Demand-side platform examples:

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