Is Your DSP Really Working for You?

By Diksha Sahni | December 8th, 2016

Programmatic media buying is one of the most popular concepts in mobile ad tech and the ad spend on media bought programmatically has only increased in the last few years. One of the key entities within the programmatic ecosystem is, of course, the Demand-Side Platform (DSP) -- technology platforms that advertisers use to automate the buying of ad space and monitor their campaigns. (Wondering how do DSPs do that? Check out our detailed infographic explaining the role of DSPs in programmatic media buying!)

The growth of programmatic media buying has meant that the market is flooded with DSPs. For an advertiser new to the programmatic environment, the wide range of options in the market can be confusing. Almost all major DSPs have a fairly common set of features, but which DSP is best suited to an advertiser’s campaign needs is what needs to be thought of before setting up programmatic campaigns.

Is your DSP really working for you? Does the DSP suit your advertising needs? On the back of our experience of running a strong platform, we give you some tips on factors to consider when choosing a DSP:

1. Integration with Supply Sources and Ad Exchanges

DSPs allow advertisers to get access to inventory, and for this it is crucial that the platform chosen offers a wide range of supply sources as well as ensuring that it is closely integrated with ad exchanges. For instance, some DSPs may be able to connect to exchanges that are not available in other platforms, or some may offer access to a cross-channel inventory. By integrating well with major SSPs and ad exchanges, DSPs allow advertisers to get access to a wider supply of inventory as per the desired geo campaigns.

2. Data Reach and Support of 3rd Party Tracking Links

Data is the oil that runs the programmatic engines. An effective DSP must be able to use the campaign data as well as integrate with third-party data to target audiences in the RTB campaigns. DSPs partner with Data Management Platforms (DMP) to get access to audience data and use that for effective retargeting and campaign optimization. It is important for advertisers to recognize which data brings the most value to them and see if how the DSP addresses the relevant audience with the data available. It is also worth to look at deterministic and probabilistic tracking for the campaign needs.

3. Efficiency and Campaign Optimization

For an advertiser their programmatic ad campaigns are only as effective as the DSP they work with. A key factor in differentiating the performance of one platform from another is its efficiency and how well is the optimization technology. A DSP’s effectiveness depends on its ability to leverage the data, analyze the impressions and bid intelligently to win the impressions. For optimal campaign performance, a DSP must not only be able to bid in real time but also have optimization capabilities such as frequency capping, budget control, and diversified creative support. The efficiency of the platform depends on its algorithm, which is at the heart of all operations. Only a DSP that is based on strong algorithms can deliver the best results.

4. Support Offered

DSP differ from one another in the support they offer to advertisers both before, during and after setting up a campaign. This is a key factor, particularly for those media buyers who are experimenting with the programmatic technology for the first time. Ask whether the DSP would assist you in setting-up and optimizing campaigns, or if you can manage your own campaigns. For instance, depending on whether you have a dedicated media buying team or not, you can opt for either a self-serve or a managed platform. In case of self-serve platform, many DSPs offer support in the form of demo and trainings. Many DSPs also offer a white-label solution. Other support can be in the form of resolution of issues and turn around time, and a hands-on account management team to address and guide the client’s needs.

5. Transparency and Costs

Depending on the features and the support offered, DSPs will have different cost models. Advertisers must ask whether the DSP charges on a CPM, CPI or a CPC basis. For cost transparency, advertisers must also understand how much control the DSP allows them to see where the ads are appearing and how much they have paid for it. It is also good to know whether there is a monthly minimum or an annual charge, or a platform fee. Simple platforms cost less than complex and technically advanced platforms, and which one to choose depends on the end goals of the advertiser’s campaigns.


Advertisers must ask themselves what does a DSP mean to them. While at the heart of a strong DSP lie efficiency and performance, both of which are critical in determining the success of a programmatic campaign, it is important to remember that not all DSPs are created equal. Advertisers must know what the campaign needs are and what is the solution they are looking for before setting up campaigns with a DSP: reach, targeting, cost, etc, will all determine which platform is best supported for their campaign needs. The above parameters can help get advertisers started in evaluating the many options available and ensure programmatic success. The growth of DSPs is expected to go hand-in-hand with the evolution of programmatic and we will continue to see more innovations as well as more competition as the market strengthens and moves towards an automated future.

Diksha Sahni
Diksha is a Content Marketing Manager at AppLift and is based out of our Bangalore office. When she is not behind her computer writing, you can find her binge watching her favorite movies, finding her happy place at a dance studio, and checking off places on her bucket list.

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