How Demand-Side Platforms Enable Wider Reach & Ad Buying

Last updated on by Ted Vrountas in Advertising, Lead Generation

Ad buying and selling didn’t used to be as easy as it is today. Manual insertion orders, sit-down meetings, contracts were all once part of the drawn-out process of publishing of an ad. In the past, it could take days or weeks. Now, with the help of demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms, it’s an efficient and near-instantaneous process.

What is a demand-side platform (DSP)?

A demand-side platform is software used by advertisers to buy mobile, search, and video ads from a marketplace on which publishers list advertising inventory. These platforms allow for the management of advertising across many real-time bidding networks, as opposed to just one, like Google Ads. Together with supply-side platforms, DSPs enable programmatic advertising.

What is programmatic advertising?

Programmatic advertising is the process of buying and selling ads with software and publishing those ads contextually based on complex algorithms. Most online advertising now is done programmatically through real-time bidding and direct deals.

According to eMarketer, programmatic advertising has been steadily growing in popularity. By 2019, it’s expected that 83.6% of display advertising will be bought and sold programmatically:

Programmatic isn’t just display advertising, though. It refers to ad sales on search networks too, and any other network bought with software. However, when you buy ads through these networks (like Google Ads for example) individually, you’re not necessarily using a demand-side platform.

How a DSP works

Demand-side platforms are independent of individual networks. If you’re managing ads through Google Display Network manager, you’re buying impressions on Google publishers only. If you’re using the Facebook Ads Manager to buy ads, you’re buying impressions on Facebook or Instagram specifically. Demand-side platforms are independent of these networks. They are third-party software that allow you to purchase, analyze, manage ads across many networks from a single place.

In the programmatic advertising picture, demand-side platforms give advertisers all the information they need to buy advertising from a publisher. They don’t own or purchase media directly from publishers, but instead communicate with a supply-side platform through an ad exchange.

Supply-side platforms allow publishers to list that inventory on the ad exchange, and they communicate with DSPs about the details of an impression.

If that impression is a marketing manager who has visited your demo post-click landing page before, she’s more valuable to you than somebody who’s never visited your website before. In that case, your DSP will likely bid higher for the impression. Whether you win the bid will depend on how valuable this impression is to other businesses. Maybe she’s abandoned her cart on an ecommerce website. If that’s the case, the ecommerce website may bid more to serve an ad that gets her to the checkout page. It all depends on the budget of the bidder and the value of the impression. This is all facilitated automatically by the SSP, DSP and the ad exchange between advertisers and publishers.

Why use a demand-side platform?

Using a demand-side platform has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s good to know a few before you invest heavily in a software.

Pros of using a DSP





Cons of using a DSP


Assemble your million-dollar marketing stack

For some businesses, a demand-side platform will make the most sense. It offers efficiency and a broader reach of prospects across multiple ad exchanges, including more premium inventory. For those advertising on a select few platforms, though, the cost and complexity of a DSP may not be worth working into your advertising tool stack.

For more on tools to power your million-dollar advertising spend, get the new Instapage guide: The Advertising Stack to Power Your $1 Million Ad Spend.

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