Back to glossary

Demand Side Platform

DSP media buying is a cornerstone of the programmatic ad ecosystem. Here’s what advertisers need to know.

Placing an ad used to be no more complex than making the most of however many print column inches you could afford, but now it involves DSPs, SSPs, RTB, and more. It’s a complex, fast-moving machine that’s always changing to keep up with the evolution of the digital advertising marketplace. Achieving optimal return on ad spend requires a deep understanding of each player’s role in the mobile ad economy, and that begins with the DSP — the demand side platform.

Demand side platform definition

A demand side platform is a piece of advertising technology (AdTech) that allows advertisers to run ad campaigns across multiple — often thousands — of content publishers and media sources. DSPs work as automated intermediaries between individual advertisers or agencies and inventory sellers, negotiating the price and frequency of ad placements based on advertiser-defined parameters. Programmatic DSP platforms flourished as a result of real-time bidding (RTB) technology, which streamlined and accelerated the mobile ad placement process. Most marketers use multiple DSPs to ensure they have the widest reach possible and use incrementality tests to ensure they’re not over-saturating their target audience.

Demand Side Platform DSP: Software that allows advertisers to automatically bid on and purchase ad inventory

Supply Side Platform SSP: Software that allows publishers to automatically sell ad inventory

Real Time Bidding RTB: An automated auction process for the buying and selling of digital ad space.

The elements of a demand side platform explained

A demand side platform consists of a number of individual elements working together in concert. These typically include at least some of the following:

User interface: The dashboard from which advertisers set the parameters for the campaign, including targeting, placement, frequency capping, etc.

User profile database: Information about the end users who view the ads. This might include information such as which ads they’ve seen, or the time of day they saw them.

Reporting database: This stores data about the campaign for later aggregation into reports.

Campaign tracker: Records information about the performance of the campaign, including clickthrough rate, impressions, win rate, etc.

Ad server: DSP ad tech that stores the digital ad creative itself and displays it to the end user, regardless of type. DSP video ads are on the same servers as banner ads, for example.

Bidder: Stores the information for each advertiser’s campaign parameters and facilitates bidding on ad inventory during RTB auctions. A DSP will typically have bidders in several server locations to minimize bid latency. When the time to win a bid is counted in milliseconds, every possible advantage helps.

Integrations: Within the programmatic ecosystem, various ad tech platforms must interact and work together. Integrations refers to the ways in which various platforms “speak” to each other and work together, including DSPs, SSPs, ad exchanges, and data management platforms (DMPs).

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.

Some Tapjoy partner demand side platform examples include:

      Google Display & Video 360 (DV360)
      • Liftoff
      • Moloco
      • Pangle
      • Unicorn
      • WebEye
      DSP ads on mobile

      The steady increase of consumer mobile usage has led to an accordingly steady increase in in-app mobile advertising. A mobile DSP is a type of Demand Side Platform that specializes in buying ad space on mobile devices. If programmatic in-app advertising is part of your marketing strategy — and if it isn’t, it should be — make sure your DSP of choice has a proven track record of working with mobile advertising and sufficient access to mobile ad inventory.

      Tapjoy’s programmatic private marketplace provides direct SDK integration into more than 20,000 mobile apps and more than two billion global active users. Curated app lists and MOAT-verified inventory ensure campaigns remain brand-safe while delivering maximum ROAS. Contact us to learn more.

Earn revenue from your app

Sign up to start monetizing your app with ironSource.