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Using DSP Platforms to Boost Media Buying [+ Top-9 DSP Examples Inside]

May 31, 202415 min read
Marharyta Kaplia
Marharyta Kaplia, Head of Content, AdTech Expert
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Even after all these years, when programmatic platforms became the bread and butter of each adtech specialist, the mystery of DSP remains unresolved. We heard something and know that it can level up media buying and help to save budgets, but…

Sometimes we can get lost. What exactly is a DSP platform? How does it fit into the complex digital advertising ecosystem? And most of all, how do you choose the coolest one among that vast number on the market?

In this blog, we'll check on DSP examples, break down their essential components, and explore how they function. Whether you're a seasoned marketer or just starting in the world of programmatic advertising, this guide will keep you safe and sound and help to improve media buying activities. Let's go straight to the point.

What Is a DSP Platform?

If you’re the passionate reader of the Epom blog, you might already have seen a bunch of guides on DSP platforms, but there's never enough time and space to explain this technology down to the nitty-gritty aspects. So, we’ll continue.

At its core, a DSP (demand-side platform) is a digital gateway for advertisers. It allows advertisers to buy inventory across the array of websites and applications programmatically.

DSP platforms use sleek algorithms and data-driven insights, which help advertisers to reach the right audience, at the right time and context. If you combine it in the whole programmatic ecosystem, integrating with supply-side platforms (SSPs) and ad exchanges, you streamline the ad buying process even more, get the best ad placements and maximize campaign performance.

Also, DSP platforms can be easily integrated with data management platforms (DMPs) and help you to harness rich customer insights. Then, you can use these insights to create campaigns that resonate with your target audiences on a highly-personalized level.

So, as you can see, DSPs serve as good as it is, when we speak about quality traffic, top ad placements, and tailored ad campaigns. But before we consider some DSP examples, let’s review quickly how such tools work.

DSP Platforms Anatomy: The Key Components

Demand-side platforms consist of various components that work together harmoniously to streamline your media buying. Some of these essential components include targeting capabilities, real-time bidding systems, ad inventory management, reporting and analytics tools, and integration with data management platforms. But let’s take a closer look at all those DSP components:

1. User interface (UI) – this is the part you interact with. It's a dashboard where you can set up, manage, and monitor ad campaigns. Here you specify details like target audience, budget, ad creatives, and more.

2. Bidding engine – no exaggeration, the heart of a DSP. It participates in real-time bidding (RTB) auctions, competing with other advertisers to buy ad impressions. The bidding engine decides how much to bid based on the value of the impression to the advertiser.

Usually, DSP has several bidders in various data centers to make sure they can respond quickly — within 200 milliseconds — to requests from SSPs and ad exchanges. These bidders keep a cached copy of an advertiser’s campaign targeting criteria, which helps them respond faster and more efficiently to bid requests.

3. Integrations – for example, with DMP. Briefly, because we’re all busy people here: DMP is a platform that collects and analyzes large amounts of data about users, such as their behavior, preferences, and demographics. It helps in creating audience segments so ads can reach the right people.

4. Optimization algorithms – DSPs use sophisticated algorithms to optimize ad campaigns in real-time. These algorithms adjust bids, select the best ad placements, and tweak targeting to improve campaign performance continuously.

I guess, these ones were the most important components of DSP, however, there are many more, such as:

  • Ad creatives management that allows uploading and optimizing images, videos, etc.;
  • Reporting and analytics to see all the critical metrics, like impressions, clicks, conversions, and return on investment (ROI);
  • Budget and spend management to set budgets for campaigns, pace the spend over time, and check if the budget is used efficiently;
  • Fraud detection and prevention to ensure you get real, human views rather than fake, bot-driven traffic.
dsp components

How It All Comes Together or How DSP Works?

Now, we know the essentials about any DSP platform, know all its components, and are almost ready for DSP examples. Yet, if we don’t know how they work, we won’t be able to choose the best one for our purposes.

Just a quick table for your convenience:

Step #1 – Connecting to ad exchanges

  • Ad exchange – think of it as giant marketplaces where lots of websites and apps offer ad spaces for sale.
  • DSP connects to these marketplaces to check all the available ad spaces in one place.

Step #2 – Setting campaign parameters

You have to decide:

  • Budget: How much money you want to spend on the ads.
  • Target audience: Who you want to show the ads to (like people of certain ages, interests, locations, etc.).
  • Ad formats: The types of ads you want to use (banners, videos, or mobile ads, etc.).
  • Bid strategy: How much you’re willing to pay for each ad impression (when an ad is shown) or click.

Step #3 – Bidding process

  • When someone visits a website or uses an app, the site or app sends a request to the ad exchange saying, "I have space for an ad. Who wants to bid to show their ad here?"
  • The DSP gets this request and quickly analyzes if this visitor matches the target audience set by the advertiser.
  • If the visitor is a good match, the DSP places a bid, which is like offering a budget to show the ad to this visitor.
  • This whole bidding process happens in milliseconds, while the webpage or app is loading.

Step #4 – Winning the –≤id

  • If the DSP’s bid is the highest, it wins the auction, and the ad is shown to the visitor.
  • If the bid isn’t the highest, another advertiser’s ad is shown, and the DSP may try again for the next visitor.

Step #5 – Data and analytics

After the ad is shown, the DSP collects data on its performance. It tracks:

  • Impressions – how many times the ad was displayed.
  • Clicks – how many times the ad was clicked.
  • Conversions – actions the advertiser wants (like purchases or sign-ups).

This data helps advertisers see how well their ads are performing and make adjustments to optimize campaigns.

Pros and Cons of DSP Platforms

Kinda tiresome already, huh? Hope not, because all those DSP examples that we’ve prepared are almost here. Still, it’s better to hear about the benefits and disadvantages of a DSP platform before setting up one. But if you know all of this already, you can jump to the section you’re interested in.

And now, straight to the business.

pros and cons of dsp platforms

Pros of DSP platform:

  • Single hub for all media buying activities – instead of negotiating with multiple publishers, you can manage all your campaigns in one place. Save your time and effort!
  • Real-time bidding – DSPs use RTB, allowing you to bid on ad impressions in real time. This means you can adjust your bids based on the value of each impression, optimizing your budget.
  • Advanced targeting – you can choose specific demographics, behaviors, locations, and even times of day to show your ads. It helps in reaching the right audience.
  • Data tools integration – DSPs can integrate with your existing data sources, such as customer databases, DMPs, and analytics tools. So, you create more personalized and effective ad campaigns.
  • Performance tracking – DSPs provide detailed analytics and reporting, so you can see how your ads are performing.
  • Cost-efficiency – due to the competitive nature of RTB, using DSPs often results in better pricing for ad placements.

Cons of DSP platform:

  • Complexity – DSPs can be complex to set up and manage, especially for beginners. There’s a learning curve involved, and you might need some technical knowledge to make the most out of them.
  • Extra or hidden fees – while DSPs can be cost-efficient, they also come with their own costs. There are fees associated with using the platform, or some companies can set their own fees you wouldn’t know beforehand.
  • Over-reliance on automation – DSPs heavily rely on automation. While this can be good, it also means you have less control over some aspects of your ad campaigns. It’s crucial to monitor and adjust settings regularly.
  • Tough competition – since DSPs use RTB, you constantly compete with other advertisers. It can drive up the cost of high-value impressions, making it challenging to stay within budget. So you’ll have to be very attentive to this.

DSP Examples: Top-9 Platforms to Choose From

top dsp platforms

Now, we’re jumping to the most anticipated part of this article, which is DSP examples, of course. We analyzed about 30 popular DSP platforms on the market and chose the top-9, and now we’ll tell you about their strong and weak suits.

Epom White-Label DSP

Strong suits:

  1. Diverse ad formatsEpom white-label DSP offer a wide range of ad formats, including display, video, pop-ups, and push notifications, catering to various advertiser needs.
  2. Multilayered optimization – included advanced optimization tools like bidding rules, multipliers, and capping, allowing to fine-tune ad campaigns for better performance.
  3. Platform ownership – flexible account setup, permission settings, and admin panel extras, offering more control over campaigns.
  4. Custom targeting – 30+ attributes, geofencing, and the use of SSP data for targeting.
  5. White-labeling options – you can customize company info, logo, colors, images, text and its position, etc.
  6. Powerful retargeting – the support for pixel/fingerprint retargeting, smart filters, and segmentation enhances the effectiveness of retargeting campaigns.
  7. Traffic quality scanning – anti-fraud detection, provided by GeoEdge, ensures high traffic quality and reduces the risk of ad fraud.
  8. Free trial and onboarding – the 14-day free trial, along with dedicated onboarding and custom development helps to get started smoothly.
  9. The CPC/CPM bidding model – pricing model alternation in a DSP for better budget flexibility.
  10. Powerful analytics – automated performance tracking and KPI adjustment guarantee valuable insights for optimizing ad campaigns.

There are many more other cool features of Epom DSP, yet, we don’t have much time here so we’re going over to the weak suits:

  1. UX/UI challenges – the user experience and user interface could be more intuitive.
  2. Lack of audio and DOOH channels – it limits the platform's capabilities in reaching audiences.
  3. Limited targeting options – the lack of contextual, behavioral targeting, and partial availability of demographic targeting (only gender and age) might affect advertisers' decisions on buying the platform.
  4. Integration gaps – the lack of significant integration, having DMP and other key tools on board might make Epom not so desired tech stack.

AdLib

Strong suits:

  1. User-friendly frequency capping – this feature stands out as an advantage, despite the limitation of setting only one capping interval per campaign.
  2. Pre-generated pixel types – setting different pixels, such as regular JS, image, or GTM-specific, simplifies conversion tracking.
  3. Support for DOOH and audio advertising.
  4. Modern UI design – clean user interface is a visual strength, offering a positive user experience.

Weak suits:

  1. Native ad image restrictions – you need to upload a .zip file with restricted image size & CSV table with native asset fields, which is not convenient.
  2. Limited video creative support – absence of VASTs for video creatives and the requirement for local video files could hinder the seamless integration of video ads.
  3. Lack of permission settings – it’s not possible to manage permissions for various roles.
  4. Missing white-label settings in account – it limits customization opportunities for branding and personalization.

BidsCube

Strong suits:

  1. Intuitive bid price multipliers – easier to comprehend compared to our platform.
  2. Geo-fence feature at campaign level – having it directly at the campaign level is very convenient.
  3. Audio media buying channel available – with audio content rising popularity, it’s super cool.
  4. Client-oriented – fast 24/7 support, strong account management team, efficient development and integration timeline.

Weak suits:

  1. Lack of advanced features – the absence of advanced features like dynamic creative optimization and creative development is a limitation.
  2. Inconvenient geo, OS & browser selection – these targeting options are not user-friendly.
  3. No API – the lack of API integration options could restrict customization and automation capabilities.
  4. Missing Help Center on the website – kinda uncomfortable, though.
  5. No trial option – the lack of a trial option might deter potential users from exploring the platform.

AdForm

Strong suits:

  1. Advanced bidding strategy (CPA) – AdForm's bidding strategy based on CPA optimization can enhance campaign performance by automatically optimizing traffic towards specific CPA goals after gathering 100 conversions.
  2. Diverse inventory – a range of ad formats is available, including banners, video, CTV, and DOOH.
  3. Rich media constructor – in-built rich media constructor allows making interactive and engaging creatives without coding expertise.
  4. Analytics depth – provides detailed analytics with over 100 metrics to gain deep insights into campaign performance across various criteria like device, format, and more.
  5. Flexible conversion tracking – supports multiple conversion tracking methods and can integrate with popular attribution platforms like Appsflyer, Adjust, and Kochava

Weak suits:

  1. No free trial.
  2. Limited demo access – the inability to showcase all features without internal eligibility checks could make it challenging for potential clients to gain a comprehensive understanding of the product's capabilities.
  3. No white-label solution – it ceases branding opportunities for businesses looking to maintain a consistent brand image.
  4. Limited SSP connections – only AdForm's own integrated exchanges and connections via Bidswitch.

SmartyAds

Strong suits:

  1. Extensive WL customization – many white-labeling options tailor the DSP according to their specific needs.
  2. Many optimization features – including dynamic bid optimization, Second Price Predictor, and WinRate Optimizer, help to improve ad campaign performance and get higher ROI.
  3. Full-stack offer – offers both DMP and SSP along with the DSP, making a comprehensive advertising ecosystem for clients.
  4. Extensions – extra modules for additional functionalities.

Weak suits:

  1. Pricing complexity – the pricing structure is complex and might be challenging for clients to understand and calculate the costs accurately.
  2. No free trial.
  3. No multiple conversion tracking.
  4. Limited ad formats range – no push or pop formats, no interstitial; also, no info about dynamic creative optimization; so it limits the creative forms for advertising.

Targetoo

Strong suits:

  1. Customization – a strong white-label solution that allows to customize colors, DNS settings, terms and conditions, interface, etc.
  2. Audio ads – support for audio ads with possibility to play on Spotify.
  3. Good media planning – it’s possible to forecast traffic volumes from a specific city, device, limit it by the price floor, etc.
  4. Various targeting types are available – including interest, language, connection, carrier, weather wtf, app name, site url, terminals, models, publisher, publisher Category, type of user ID.
  5. Data building – they provide extensive analytics with tons of metrics with others like a device ram, CPBuys, reg rate, IPM etc.

Weak suits:

  1. Complex user interface – UI is highly complicated and not user-friendly, especially for inexperienced users.
  2. Complicate creative creation process – you need to pre-load creatives into the library, and then to browse the library, selecting the creatives required for the Campaign.
  3. Unclear tracking – you can generate pixels, but not access them.
  4. Limited account flexibility – while white-labeling is a strength, accounts are not that flexible. You can only give fixed (for branded campaigns) or performance-based accounts.
  5. Extra charge for custom SSP – you can connect them but for $2800.

Ad Kernel

Strong suits:

  1. Keywords targeting – a feature that automatically generates keywords and synonyms from a landing page URL.
  2. Bid floor – the Analytics tab provides bid floor information, enhancing transparency in the bidding process.
  3. Payment systems integration – AdKernel supports up to 10 integrated payment systems, which is quite flexible.
  4. Flexible account management – allows white-labeling and the ability to manage external user accounts with maximum spend control.
  5. Direct publisher interface – provides an interface for publishers, enhancing communication and collaboration.

Weak suits:

  1. Limited white-labeling options – while white-labeling is supported, the options for customization are basic, offering only custom logos and color themes.
  2. Complex UI – the user interface is overloaded and some basic activities, such as targeting selection, are inconvenient.
  3. Cumbersome UI for analytics – although the platform offers a variety of dimensions in analytics, the user interface for analytics is difficult to navigate.
  4. No in-built DMP or fraud scanners – relies on integration with external solutions.

BidMind

Strong suits:

  1. CTV focus – BidMind has a strong focus on CTV programmatic campaigns.
  2. Smart onboarding – BidMind offers an in-built DSP tutorial, chat support, and a free trial.
  3. Extensive customization – logo, custom login URL, custom colors, and custom platform set-up.
  4. Single-pixel cross-device targeting.
  5. Data solutions – supports 1st party client data and 3rd party LiveRamp data, providing valuable targeting options.

Weak suits:

  1. Custom pricing, and the final fee appears to be very high.
  2. Lack of rich media formats – limits the creative options.
  3. No custom SSP connections – limits the reach and variety of inventory sources available.
  4. No info about the admin panel, so we can’t make any conclusions about the level of control, user management, Request validator, Billing settings, or Traffic quality scanning.

Eskimi

Strong suits:

  1. Full-stack offering – a comprehensive suite of services, including a DSP, DMP, and SSP.
  2. Rich Media capability – strong emphasis on rich media and interactive creatives, including animated banners, in-game ads, and rich media interactive ads.
  3. Hybrid approach – hybrid DSP and full-service agency approach, where clients pay only for traffic, coupled with services like ad ops, media planning, and creative development.

Weak suits:

  1. Bidding model limitation – exclusive focus on CPM pricing.
  2. Unclear fee policy – no price, no trial, just paying for traffic?
  3. No custom SSP setup.
  4. User control limitation – despite offering sub-account creation, Eskimi keeps ultimate control over the accounts.

How DSP Platform Differs from SSP?

We already have a value-packed guide about DSP vs SSP in our blog, so it won’t take long for me to highlight the main differences between them here. Compiled a short table for you just to have a quick glance on both technologies:

dsp vs ssp

DSPs and SSPs are both essential components of the programmatic advertising ecosystem, but they serve different purposes. DSPs help advertisers buy ad space efficiently and effectively, while SSPs help publishers sell their ad space to the highest bidder. Together, they create a seamless, automated process that optimizes ad placements and revenues in real-time.

The Bottom Line

Another longread dedicated to DSP must assure you that it’s a powerful tool you can use to scale your advertising business. Optimize your ad campaigns, reach targeted audiences, manage ad spending efficiently and see how the sky becomes the only limit.

Hope now you have a clear picture of how DSP works and what are the best examples you can choose and start testing. So, ready, set, advertise!

Embrace the potential of DSP platforms, and watch your digital advertising efforts soar to new heights.

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