Demand Side Platform (DSP) Explained

DSP stands for Demand Side Platform and represents a user facing tool, enabling advertiser’s to purchase advertising space from a wide range of publishers and ad networks.

It functions inside of a system referred to as Programmatic Advertising, working in much the same way as a real auction, with many goods (ad space) available from all over the world. The Demand side acts as the buyer, and the Supply side acts as this seller. The buyer wants to purchase something which is highly relevant for them, or their audience. The seller side wants to aggregate many different pieces of inventory together in a logical way that makes selling in volume easy, for a wide range of publishers.

The inverse of a DSP is an SSP which stands for Supply Side Platform, enabling publishers who have inventory space to access advertisers at a greater scale and much more efficiently than if their individual sales teams had gone out and made contact.

How DSPs have Evolved – Their History

Ten to fifteen years ago a brand would just contact a publisher directly to negotiate individual ad placements across their website, or platform. These days scale and target-ability is key when trying to reach and persuade your audience, DSPs enable both of these things. Recently more and more budget has appeared to have been shifted toward the programmatic purchasing of advertising. It’s easily scalable and has access to a huge portion of the web.

Using a DSP and Your Other Options

DSPs are most frequent used by marketing specialists or digital agencies as they require a deep understanding of the technology and specialty training. Some of the other ways that a brand could advertise online is by:

  • Purchasing space directly from a publisher. This is usually part of a package with exclusive or premium spots on the website such as a homepage or EDMs to their audience.
  • They could also buy collectively from an advertising network which aggregate many different publishers, usually under the same brand umbrella.

Both of these methods generally require interaction with a sales representative and it was typically more represented in the early days of the internet, but is still worth considering for big impact ad formats and specific website targeting.

As marketing gets more advanced and brands more competitive, it becomes necessary to absolutely minimise the amount of wastage in your advertising budget. This is where the DSPs can play a huge role in your spend; by insuring that every cent is optimised against your target audience and a contextual irrelevant group of publishers. The DSP enables for easy, centralized management of your campaigns and creative assets, in order to reach the desired audience.

As referenced above, it is also possible to access a DSP and purchase targeted ad space as a brand by yourself; agencies just make this process much more efficient. They can often bring extra value in terms of optimisation within targeting. This commonly looks like rich data overlaid across the ad networks and publishers which highlight the most relevant pieces of inventory to purchase for each brand.

A Few Demand Side Platform Examples

Some examples of more popular DSPs include Amobee, Appnexus, Quantcast and DataXU, but there is a huge range available. Standing out from many of the others, Viewspotter uses AI and machine learning to optimise a campaign.

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