What is a Demand Side Platform?

By Tinuiti Team

Demand-side platforms (DSPs) have changed the way we experience, buy, and sell online advertising. But what exactly are DSPs? And how do they work? Here’s everything you need to know about demand-side platforms, including the pros and cons and some of the top DSP providers. 

What is a DSP?

A demand-side platform (DSP) is an ad-tech software application that lets brands and agencies programmatically buy and manage ads. Advertisers can buy and manage banner, social, search, video, and native ads purchased from marketplaces like ad networks or supply-side platforms. 

DSPs are a part of programmatic advertising, which refers to buying digital ad space automatically. Programmatic advertising uses data to decide which digital advertising spaces to buy and how much to pay for them — no salespeople or negotiations necessary.

Programmatic advertising is on the rise: eMarketer predicts that by 2021, 87.5% of digital display advertising will be bought and sold programmatically.

Demand-side platforms vs. supply-side platforms

A supply-side platform is a programmatic technology platform that connects digital publishers — suppliers of ad inventory —to advertisers. SSPs let publishers automate ads sales and auction off their inventory to maximize their ad earnings. SSPs make ad inventory available to DSPs, agencies, and advertisers.

Demand-side platforms connect buyers to those suppliers so that they can manage multiple ad buys through one platform. An SSP can plug into a DSP so that buyers can bid on publishers’ digital inventory. 

How do DSPs work? 

Ad buying used to be a lot more manual, expensive, and unreliable. Advertisers used to buy ads from salespeople. DSPs automate the ad buying process, making it faster and more scalable than ever to buy and manage ads.

DSPs are third-party providers independent of individual networks; instead of managing ads through Facebook Ads Manager or Google Display Network, you can buy impressions across a variety of publishers and networks. In addition to buying ads, you can manage and analyze your ad buys through a single platform: the DSP.

DSPs provide all of the information ad buyers need to purchase impressions and ads from a publisher. DSPs communicate with supply-side platforms through an ad exchange to share details about the ad buys and impressions.

The DSP decides how much to bid on each impression based on the information it has about the impression — aka how likely the person viewing the ad is to click and/or convert on the ad. If an impression is more valuable, the DSP will automatically bid higher. DSPs also let you retarget customers throughout the advertising funnel, keeping your brand top-of-mind for prospects and previous customers alike.

Many agencies operate their own DSPs, often known as trading desks, using technology licensed from DSP providers.

Pros of DSP advertising


Cons of DSP advertising



Demand-side platform providers

Some DSPs focus on specific channels, such as mobile, video, or display, while others have a broader variety of inventory available.

If you are considering adding a DSP to your marketing stack, here are some of the top DSP providers in the ad-tech space today:

    1. Amazon DSP: Available under Amazon advertising, Amazon DSP enables advertisers to programmatically buy display and video ads.


    1. Basis: A solution from Centro that allows users to manage direct, programmatic, search, and social advertising through a single interface.


    1. StackAdapt: A programmatic native advertising platform that helps agencies accelerate customer engagement and acquisition.


    1. Criteo: A personalized retargeting company that works with ecommerce retailers to serve personalized online display ads to shoppers who have previously visited the advertiser’s website.


    1. Google Marketing Platform: Google’s unified marketing and analytics platform, which includes Display and Video 360 ( DV360 — formerly DoubleClick Bid Manager), Google’s DSP product.


    1. MediaMath: One of the first DSPs, MediaMath provides advertisers and marketers with tools to buy ads online through a single interface. 


    1. The Trade Desk: A software platform that lets digital ad buyers purchase data-driven digital advertising campaigns across ad formats and devices.


    1. Choozle: A digital platform that uses consumer data to power programmatic advertising campaigns across mediums from a single interface.


    1. dataxu: Recently acquired by Roku, dataxu is a DSP that provides a programmatic media buying solution and real-time bidding.


    1. Verizon Media DSP: An independent, unified programmatic video advertising platform for reaching audiences across web, mobile and connected TV.


  1. Amobee DSP: A cloud platform that enables marketers to make smarter decisions and precisely execute cross-channel campaigns.

DSPs have changed the way advertisers buy ads (and publishers sell them). Though programmatic advertising may seem complex, working with an agency can simplify and streamline the process even further. To learn more about Tinuiti’s programmatic and display advertising services, click here

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