Demand-side platform (DSP) – what is demand-side platform platform and what is it used for?

Demand-side platform (DSP) – what is demand-side platform platform and what is it used for?

Demand-side platform (DSP) is a software platform that consolidates data exchange accounts and multiple ad exchange accounts into a single interface, enabling advertisers to efficiently manage and optimize their advertising campaigns. DSPs serve as powerful marketing automation tools, allowing advertisers to purchase high-quality impressions in large volumes with minimal effort.

What are demand-side platforms (DSPs)?

Demand-side platforms (DSPs) are software platforms utilized by advertisers to acquire and oversee ad inventory across various channels, including video, mobile, and search ads. They provide a marketplace that aggregates available ad inventory from publishers.

DSPs offer advertisers the ability to manage their advertising campaigns across multiple real-time bidding networks, expanding their reach and targeting options. Together with supply-side platforms (which publishers use to list their ad inventory), DSPs facilitate programmatic advertising, automating the buying and selling of ad space.

How do demand-side platforms (DSPs) work?

Demand-side platforms (DSPs) utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to help advertisers determine the most suitable ad placements at optimal prices. These platforms aim to target individuals who are most likely to engage with the ads and convert.

Before the advent of DSPs and programmatic advertising, advertisers had to manually negotiate with publishers and platforms, limiting their audience reach and adaptability based on human capabilities. However, with the introduction of programmatic advertising and DSPs, ad placement is now automated.

DSPs act as intermediaries between advertisers and publishers, enabling advertisers to purchase ad impressions across various publisher sites. These impressions are targeted to specific users based on their key online behaviors. This functionality allows advertisers to reach their desired audience on multiple publisher sites, maximizing the reach and effectiveness of their ad campaigns.

For instance, you may have noticed how Facebook ads seem to know your preferences, such as suggesting a new dishwasher when you need one. This is possible because Facebook collects user data and utilizes various targeting options to deliver relevant ads. Similarly, DSPs operate on a larger scale, providing advertisers the opportunity to distribute their ad creatives across multiple publisher sites instead of being limited to a single platform like Facebook.

DSPs and SSPs: Exploring the differences

When it comes to programmatic advertising, two key players in the ecosystem are demand-side platforms (DSPs) and supply-side platforms (SSPs). DSPs are utilized by advertisers to purchase ad inventory, while SSPs are employed by publishers to sell their available ad space.

DSPs and SSPs connect through ad exchanges, where DSPs participate in automated auction-style bidding for ad inventory. DSPs enable advertisers to make purchases across multiple ad exchanges simultaneously, while SSPs allow publishers to sell their ad inventory across various ad exchanges.

Different types of DSPs

There are three primary types of DSPs, each catering to specific advertising needs and strategies:

  1. Mobile DSPs: These are integrated within the existing DSP ecosystem and are not standalone programs. Mobile DSPs specifically handle mobile inventory, connecting with mobile ad exchanges where app publishers and developers offer their available impressions. The DSP automatically analyzes and determines the value of impressions for advertisers. Once a bid is accepted, the ad creative is served when the app is initialized, downloaded, or opened.
  2. White-label DSPs: This type of DSP can be customized to meet specific requirements. A white-label DSP is a platform that can be purchased and customized according to your preferences. It provides a blank canvas for designing your own programmatic algorithm for ad placements, rather than relying on a pre-existing one from another DSP. Additionally, a white-label DSP can be integrated with multiple ad exchanges and SSPs to expand your audience segment and traffic.
  3. Self-serve DSPs: Designed for smaller agencies or advertisers starting with programmatic advertising, self-serve DSPs offer complete control over the ad buying process. Advertisers sign up for these platforms, which enables them to manage their campaigns independently. With self-serve DSPs, advertisers have the flexibility to select inventory, target their audience, and manage their campaigns. It provides a user-friendly interface for optimizing campaigns without involving third parties.

Choosing the Right DSP

Selecting the appropriate DSP depends on the specific advertising goals, preferences, and level of control desired. Mobile DSPs are suitable for reaching mobile users, while white-label DSPs offer customization options for advanced advertisers. Self-serve DSPs are ideal for smaller advertisers seeking a simplified entry into programmatic advertising.

By understanding the differences between these DSP types, advertisers can make informed decisions and leverage the right platform to optimize their programmatic ad campaigns.

Benefits of using a demand-side platform (DSP)

Demand-side platforms (DSPs) offer several advantages to advertisers, regardless of the specific type being used. Here are four universal benefits of DSPs:

  1. Streamlined workflow for ad buyers: DSPs simplify the ad buying process, providing a more efficient workflow for advertisers. Instead of dealing with multiple salespeople, contracts, negotiations, and various documents, advertisers can work with a single program. This streamlined approach saves time and eliminates the complexities associated with traditional ad-buying methods. Advertisers can easily activate their media by simply using the DSP, without the need to recreate the entire infrastructure.
  2. Cost savings: DSPs accelerate the ad buying process by removing time-consuming elements like negotiations, resulting in cost savings for advertisers. By eliminating manual tasks and automating the buying process, DSPs enable advertisers to optimize their budgets and achieve better cost efficiency in their campaigns.
  3. Enhanced access to ad inventory: DSPs provide advertisers with expanded access to multiple ad exchanges through a single interface. This allows advertisers to reach a wider range of publishers and ad inventory sources. By leveraging DSPs, advertisers can access various inventory options simultaneously, ensuring broader reach and increasing the potential to connect with their target audience.
  4. Advanced targeting capabilities: Unlike traditional ad networks that have limitations on audience targeting, DSPs offer sophisticated targeting options. Advertisers have the freedom to create their own targeting criteria, allowing for more precise audience segmentation. DSPs utilize advanced technologies, such as AI and machine learning, to optimize targeting and ensure ads reach the most relevant and engaged users. This level of targeting precision helps advertisers maximize their campaign performance and increase the effectiveness of their ad messaging.
  5. Real-time optimization: DSPs leverage real-time data and analytics to optimize ad campaigns on the fly. Through continuous monitoring and analysis of campaign performance, DSPs can make instant adjustments to targeting, bidding strategies, and creative elements. This real-time optimization helps advertisers maximize the effectiveness of their ads and achieve optimal results.
  6. Increased transparency and control: DSPs provide advertisers with transparency and control over their ad campaigns. Advertisers have access to detailed reporting and analytics, allowing them to track the performance of their campaigns in real time. They can monitor key metrics such as impressions, clicks, conversions, and cost-per-action (CPA). This transparency enables advertisers to make data-driven decisions, refine their targeting, and allocate budgets more effectively.
  7. Advanced ad format capabilities: DSPs support a wide range of ad formats, including display ads, video ads, native ads, and mobile ads. This flexibility allows advertisers to choose the most suitable ad format for their campaign goals and target audience. DSPs often provide advanced creative tools and features, empowering advertisers to deliver engaging and interactive ad experiences. By utilizing the diverse ad format capabilities of DSPs, advertisers can effectively capture audience attention and drive higher engagement rates.

In summary, DSPs streamline the ad buying process, lower costs, expand access to ad inventory, and provide advanced targeting capabilities. By leveraging these benefits, advertisers can enhance their advertising efforts, improve campaign efficiency, and reach their desired audience more effectively.

The programmatic advertising ecosystem

The evolution of programmatic advertising has transformed the way digital advertising space is bought and sold. This ecosystem encompasses various components, including demand-side platforms (DSPs), real-time bidding (RTB), programmatic direct, ad networks, and data management platforms (DMPs). Let’s explore these elements:

  • Demand-side platforms (DSPs) and real-time bidding (RTB): DSPs are instrumental in programmatic advertising, enabling advertisers to automate the buying and optimization of digital ad space. Through DSPs, advertisers participate in real-time bidding (RTB), where they bid for ad impressions in milliseconds. The DSP manages this bidding process based on advertisers’ budgets and targeting criteria, ensuring the winning ad is served to the intended audience.
  • Programmatic direct: Programmatic direct provides an alternative model to RTB. In this approach, publishers directly sell their ad space to advertisers at negotiated prices and fixed durations. This model guarantees advertisers premium ad placements on specific web pages that align with their target audience. Programmatic Direct is particularly advantageous for advertisers seeking to reach niche markets or establish direct partnerships with publishers.
  • Ad networks and the rise of DSPs: Ad networks act as intermediaries, connecting advertisers with publishers by aggregating available ad space and matching it with advertiser requirements. However, as programmatic advertising and DSPs continue to advance, ad networks may become less prominent. Unlike ad networks, DSPs offer automation, efficiency, and data-driven targeting capabilities, reducing the reliance on manual processes and human intervention.
  • Data management platforms (DMPs): DMPs play a critical role in the programmatic advertising ecosystem by collecting, storing, and analyzing data from various sources. These sources include identifiers like browser cookies and mobile identifiers such as Apple IDFA. DMPs gather audience insights and create detailed profiles that inform DSPs about the most relevant audiences for ad targeting. By leveraging DMPs, advertisers can deliver personalized and targeted ad content to specific user segments.

As programmatic advertising continues to evolve, the integration of DSPs, RTB, programmatic direct, ad networks, and DMPs will shape the future of digital advertising. Advertisers benefit from improved efficiency, precision targeting, and automation, allowing them to maximize the impact of their ad campaigns and drive better results.

How to choose the right demand-side platform (DSP)?

Selecting the right demand-side platform (DSP) requires careful consideration to ensure it aligns with your specific needs and objectives. Here are three essential questions to help guide your decision-making process:

  1. Does it fulfill the fundamental requirements? A reliable DSP should offer a user-friendly interface, enabling smooth navigation and efficient campaign management. Look for a platform that provides unrestricted audience targeting options, allowing you to reach your desired audience segments effectively. Additionally, ensure that the DSP seamlessly integrates with Data Management Platforms (DMPs), enabling you to leverage valuable audience insights for campaign optimization.
  2. Does it optimize for your specific key performance indicators (KPIs)? Consider your unique KPIs and objectives when evaluating DSPs. Seek a platform that offers advanced features to optimize your desired outcomes. For example, if your goal is to enhance brand awareness, look for a DSP with a robust KPI dashboard that measures key metrics like impressions, time on site, and unique users. These features will enable you to monitor and enhance your brand awareness campaigns effectively.
  3. Does it provide access to the necessary supply? The availability of suitable inventory is a critical factor in selecting a DSP. Ensure that the platform offers the inventory types that align with your target audience and campaign goals. Whether you require specific types of inventory or media channels, choose a DSP that provides a diverse range of supply options tailored to your niche market. Serving your ads alongside high-quality publishing content, such as established brands or popular niche sites, increases the likelihood of engagement and conversions.

Understanding the different types of DSPs, as discussed earlier, will further assist you in identifying the platform that can provide the most valuable inventory for your specific needs. Some DSPs offer direct access to publishers through programmatic direct, while others employ Supply Path Optimization (SPO) strategies to enhance the efficiency of the supply chain and improve campaign performance.

By carefully evaluating these factors and aligning them with your advertising objectives, you can choose a DSP that effectively supports your campaigns, maximizes performance, and helps you achieve your desired results.

Prominent DSPs on the market now

As programmatic advertising continues to thrive, advertisers must be familiar with the various programmatic platforms available to them. Here are some of the top demand-side platforms (DSPs) in the market today, categorized by mobile, white-label, and self-serve platforms:

Major demand-side platforms (DSPs) for mobile app performance campaigns

When it comes to mobile DSPs, transparent analytics for strategy and media placement are essential. Here are those highly regarded DSPs:

  • Smadex
  • 3.14
  • Bidease
  • Liftoff
  • AppLovin
  • AdColony
  • ironSource

Major white-label demand-side platforms (DSPs)

For marketers seeking greater control over their ad traffic, customizable options, and cost savings, a white-label DSP offers the flexibility they need. These platforms eliminate the reliance on third parties and allow worldwide traffic buying with audience customization. Here are three noteworthy options:

  • SmartyAds
  • AdKernel
  • Beeswax
  • Adform
  • MediaMath
  • StackAdapt
  • Adacado

Major self-serve demand-side platforms (DSPs)

If you are new to the world of ad and media buying or have a single account requirement, a self-serve DSP is an ideal choice. These platforms enable learning and growth while offering control over campaign management. Here are three reputable self-serve DSPs:

  • Edge226
  • Epom Market
  • The Trade Desk
  • Google Ads
  • Amazon Advertising
  • Verizon Media DSP

By considering these prominent DSPs and their specific features, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your advertising goals and maximizes your campaign performance.


DSPs and the programmatic advertising ecosystem can be complex, filled with specialized terminology that evolves alongside the industry itself. However, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Here are some key points to remember:

  1. DSPs streamline ad buying by enabling advertisers to purchase high-quality traffic at scale with ease and efficiency.
  2. There are three primary types of DSPs: mobile, white-label, and self-serve. Each type offers distinct features and advantages to cater to different advertising needs.
  3. DSPs optimize ad buying and selling processes, resulting in cost savings for advertisers. By automating tasks and eliminating manual negotiations, DSPs minimize friction and improve operational efficiency.
  4. DSPs provide expanded access to a wide range of advertisers, allowing them to reach their target audiences across various ad exchanges and inventory sources. This increased access opens up new opportunities for reaching and engaging consumers effectively.
  5. DSPs offer sophisticated targeting capabilities, leveraging data and algorithms to reach the right consumers with the right ads at the right time. This precise targeting improves ad relevance and increases the likelihood of driving desired actions from the target audience.
  6. As programmatic advertising continues to advance, ad networks may become obsolete. DSPs offer a more automated and efficient solution that reduces the need for intermediaries and manual processes.

By understanding the benefits and functionalities of DSPs, advertisers can make informed decisions and select the perfect DSP that aligns with their specific advertising goals and requirements. Asking the right questions will help you navigate the complex landscape of DSPs and find the ideal solution for your advertising needs.

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