White-label DSP and self-serve DSP sound like twins and look alike. But just like twins have at least a small gap in their personalities, a WL DSP and a regular self-serve tool are also stuffed with a bit different toppings.
Being based on the same technology, white-label and self-serve demand-side platforms uniquely define the client's role in their ecosystem. The two platforms are best suited to distinct categories of advertisers and have their flaws and virtues.
What are these differences? In one of our previous articles, we revealed what a white-label DSP is and how it contrasts with other household names like ad servers and ad networks. That was your first class in the school of programmatic advertising.
Today, we move on to the second grade to clash a white-label DSP vs. self-serve DSP and decide which one is your pick.
Defining White-Label DSP vs. Self-Serve DSP
A self-serve DSP is a classic representation of what programmatic adepts usually call a DSP. It's a platform for automatic media buying based on a real-time bidding auction. In this auction, all advertisers bid for the impression at a time, and the highest bidder always wins.
“Self-serve” in this tandem means that you don't involve any third-party professionals to take care of your campaigns. Instead, you trade ads and optimize campaigns on your own, utilizing the merits of transparency and control.
Signing up for a self-service DSP is the easiest way to start trading ads programmatically. All you need to do is to make a deposit, upload your creative, adjust settings, and set your campaign off.
A white-label DSP's setup is simple as well, but not as straightforward as in the case of a self-serve solution. “White label” means you buy/subscribe to a blank yet ready-to-use platform that you “paint” the way you want.
Compared to a self-serve, the platform gives more independence with its features and customization.
However, freedom comes at a price, both literally and figuratively. Take traffic, for example. If you are new to programmatic and don't know any SSPs to connect to, a self-serve DSP platform lets you integrate, let's say, Epom ad exchange and start advertising outright.
However, to experience the full potential of a white-label DSP solution, you might have to look for other SSPs and connect them on your own. And, of course, you need to pay a technology fee on top of your ad spend.
Self-Service DSP vs. Managed Services
Before we move on, it’s important to note that there’s a third way for you to manage media buying. It’s called a managed service DSP.
The difference is quite straightforward. A managed service partner acts on your behalf as a partner/advisor to all your media buying activities. Essentially, you give the tides to a third party so that they plan, monitor, and optimize your advertising with their own tools.
This solution is less popular than a self-service DSP as it eliminates autonomy in decision-making, but it has its use. If you don’t want to dig into how advertising works and wish to focus solely on ad creation – managed service providers are here for you.
In short, the three options differ in the following way (we’ll expand on more differences at the end of the article; here are the basics):
Now that you know of the extras, we’ll continue with the main dish. Why do best self serve DSPs lose in the fight with their white-labeled counterparts? Keep reading or watch the video below to find out.
Reason # 1. Self-Serve DSPs Require Higher Monthly Expenses in the Long Run
Usually, self-service DSPs work with a similar pricing model. This means that there is no monthly service fee, and the marked-up price for each impression is still in force. However, that is not always the case.
Some self-serve DSPs do charge a monthly fee, and a lot of them require an initial payment once you start your first campaign. Most importantly, the bid markup differs from service to service.
Yes, just like ad networks, DSPs earn 20-50% from your initial bid, and therefore, you always pay more than the publisher receives. There is nothing wrong with it: this is how platform owners get rewarded for the platform's setup and maintenance.
If you’re an occasional DSP user, the self-serve model with a 20-50% margin is OK. However, when your monthly ad spend exceeds, let's say, $30,000, this hidden fee translates into an exorbitant $5,000-10,000, draining from your monthly budget into nothing.
And just as mentioned previously, the bid markup of 20-50% is not a golden standard. Some providers could charge up to 70%, so do your math.
In contrast to self-serve DSP owners, white-label DSP resellers charge you a technology fee.
Let's imagine you pay $2,000 monthly or 5% of your ad spend if this percentage exceeds $2,000. Instead of handing $7,500 on avg. to middlemen, you put $5,500 or 18% back in your pocket.
On average, that saves up to 10-30% of monthly expenses, but the sum only depends on your scale.
A white-label DSP charges a platform fee but decreases monthly spending for big advertisers. A self-serve DSP doesn't charge you a platform fee yet marks up prices for every bid.
Reason # 2. Self-Serve DSPs Limit Your Control Over Traffic
Using a self-serve DSP, you have little to no control over your traffic sources.
On the one hand, a lack of control has its convenience. A trusted DSP chooses the best-performing supply-side partners on its own. You don't fuss with SSP integrations and enjoy easy ad management.
This, however, does not favor the cost- and time-efficiency of your campaigns. Chasing diversity, advertisers use multiple DSPs at once, granting themselves access to different traffic sources.
Yet, traffic sources will inevitably repeat within these DSPs, as no self-serve advertising platform will partner with a 100% unique set of SSPs. Ironically, this means you start bidding on the same impression through separate platforms and compete with your own bids.
To avoid this cruel doppelganger joke, you might want to choose only one demand-side platform and manage all campaigns in a single dashboard — ideally, the one that retains all valuable sources as well as their diversity.
A self-serve DSP platform unifies your media buying, but only with pre-defined inventory suppliers chosen by a DSP provider. A white-label DSP solution allows you to select SSPs on your own and eliminates the need to use several demand-side platforms.
Reason # 3. Self-Service DSPs Are Non-Customizable
A self-service DSP is a third-party SaaS tool you use as a company's client. In the case of Epom Market self-serve DSP, you apply for an account, get an advertiser's access to the platform, and start trading ads.
Platform rebranding is out of the question — here, you are only a visitor in a guesthouse. You can use all the amenities, but you can't change the overall look of the premises.
Things are different for a white-label DSP platform. You pay specifically for the product (instead of traffic markups) and, therefore, become a rightful owner of the technology. You can apply your own brand logo, change the URL, and tailor it to your business identity.
This redesign opportunity is more of a psychological advantage, but who wouldn't like to buy ads like a boss?
A self-serve DSP is a non-customizable piece of software that you use as a customer of a regular SaaS platform. A white-label programmatic DSP is rebrandable and belongs to you.
Reason # 4. White Label DSPs Have Better Targeting & Data Transparency
In theory, both white-label DSP & self-serve DSP platforms guarantee transparency of data. Unlike ad networks that often conceal most of the advertising data, you’d get every bit of information about your ad campaigns.
However, in practice, self-serve DSP providers vary in their generosity. Some companies restrict the export of raw log data, while others hide the real name of the website where traffic comes from, so you may see only the ID number of the source.
When it comes to targeting, you can't utilize all the data received from the website along with a publisher request. This type of data is called bidstream and may contain up to 50 attributes like ad placement, mobile carrier, type of internet connection, metro code, screen resolution, and more. These parameters typically aren't sent to your self-service DSP.
With a white-label DSP, the access to bidstream data is axiomatic. Nothing is concealed from you; the demand-side platform collects every available attribute that characterizes every user who sees your ad.
This happens even in the case when you don't win the impression. What else does this mean? You get an obscenely large amount of data for free, which can be used for further campaign optimization.
Example: Let's imagine you place ads in a popular photo-editing app, but the winning bid for the app is $20. That's too expensive. Obviously, that's not the only app your leads have on their smartphones. What you can do is extract the user ID from the app in which you placed an ad.
Then, use these IDs to find your audience in other apps. And finally, advertise to the same and similar users in other apps with cheaper inventory.
A self-serve DSP is transparent in terms of your performance but still doesn't bring all the data to your dashboard. A white-label solution gives you access to all publisher's data available.
Reason # 5. White-Label DSPs Allow You to Manage Account Hierarchy
A regular self-serve demand-side platform is software to which you only have users' access.
This means that you can only advertise your own business or buy inventory for other companies as a media buyer. If you are an individual advertiser, that's fine. But if you are planning to create your own advertising agency, like a social media or podcast advertising agency, it will significantly limit the growth of your new-minted business.
As mentioned above, you'll overpay for each impression by 20-70% from the initial CPM. Moreover, you will have to run your client's campaign on your own, even if they don't mind taking part in this process. No other options are available, as you have only one account from which you launch campaigns.
A white-label DSP belongs to your business. This means that besides buying media on your own, you can create and assign individual accounts to other users, just like any provider of a self-serve DSP does.
As your advertising business grows, you'll likely encounter clients who are interested in a self-service solution rather than a full-service one. And having a white-labeled platform at your fingertips, you'll be able to grant their requests.
A self-serve DSP enables the creation of only one account per agency or per advertiser. A white-label DSP allows for the creation of multiple accounts, which can be given out to other advertisers and, therefore, let them trade ads on their own.
Why is a Self-Service DSP Better than a White-Label DSP?
Despite all of the weak points above, some of the best self-serve DSPs have a strong presence on the market, and there are multiple reasons for this.
Ease of Start
As mentioned, self-serve DSP platforms have a much easier start-up. There’s no need to delve into the sea of ad exchanges, figure out which SSP is better, and configure the connections by yourself.
Many beginner advertisers use self-serve mobile DSPs because these are perfect for making your first steps in media buying without the complexities of a white-labeled solution.
If you’re a small/beginner ad business, a self-serve DSP is your best choice, period. Despite all the advanced features, the amount of freedom, and the customization of a white-labeled platform, all of these make sense only if you’re a big player in the industry.
If you get less than 3k impressions per month, don’t lack features, and don’t plan to expand much, then there’s no point in investing your hard-earned money into a white-label DSP.
Most importantly, the basics are all there: a self-service DSP allows geofencing, cross-device targeting, and (depending on the provider) data transparency.
Differences Between WL and SS DSP Summarized [PDF Comparison Table]
Making the Final Choice Between White Label DSP vs. Self-Serve DSP
A white-label DSP may beat its self-serve twin by almost all accounts, but some of its advantages pay off only for a specific category of advertisers. We won't recommend you to blindly opt for this option and set it up just because it's so powerful and belongs to your company.
Let’s figure out the best pick for your business.
You likely don't use any programmatic solutions at a time and don't really know which one you need. We offer you to start by learning more about a DSP, white label DSP, and its comparison to ad network and ad server.
Find out what is:
You likely don't need a white label solution at a time. A self-serve DSP will be the most cost-effective and convenient option for you, based on your ad spend and advertising needs.Try Self-Serve DSP
Epom offers both white-label DSP and self-serve DSP!