If you’ve been into the internet marketing business, you must’ve heard about Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and Supply Side Platforms (SSPs), and how these can be used to augment your business.

Before signing up with any DSP or SSP, you would surely have researched about what exactly these platforms are. Both platforms are used for programmatic advertising. But how are they different from each other? With the hundreds of definitions available to you, instead of understanding the functions and differences, you get even more confused.

So which one do you need? It all depends on your purpose. Let’s dive deeper and make everything simpler to help you decide.


What exactly is SSP?

Supply Side Platform is, as its name implies, the side of the advertising that supplies the “product”. The product, in this case, is the advertising space. The platform is therefore used by those who want to sell their advertising space. These are publishers who are offering their “inventory” (website traffic) to be used by anyone interested, as long as those interested fit the criteria that the publisher set.

An SSP is used by the publishers so that ads will be displayed on their websites automatically through programmatic advertising. They won’t have to manually place ads; all they need to do is to provide the necessary information about their website in the SSP, then get the code and install it on their website.

Here are a few examples of SSPs:
  • Google Ad Manager - (formerly known as DoubleClick for Publishers, different from Google AdSense)
  • OpenX
  • Rubicon Project
  • AppNexus
  • RhythmOne
There are several more SSPs available today. The difference with SSPs from ad networks (such as Google AdSense) is that SSPs give you more control over your inventory. For example, there’s a particular space in your website that gets more traffic and better quality views. You can offer this ad space’s inventory separately for better payouts. If you have traffic from apps, you can also use SSPs to sell your inventory.

The goal of an SSP is to help publishers find the best-paying ad space buyers so that they can earn more from their traffic.

What exactly is DSP?

On the other side of the market for advertising space is the buyer. These are people and companies who want to promote their own products and services, or can also be affiliates (like us) who want to promote various offers. In general, these buyers are called advertisers or media buyers. Much like publishers need a platform to “sell” their inventory, media buyers need a platform to “buy” traffic. This is where DSPs come in.

The Demand Side Platform offers a programmatic media buying scheme for advertisers. They can purchase traffic from specific websites or publishers based on the filters they set. Media buyers can choose the country, ad space, the category and many more.

In as much as publishers can adjust their settings to ensure that only ads that pass their standards will be displayed on their websites when using SSPs, advertisers can also choose spaces where their ads will be displayed with the help of various ad settings within the DSP. Some DSPs allow advertisers to choose website categories, whitelist publishers and even allow you to bid on specific websites.

Here are available DSPs today:
  • Google Marketing Platform (formerly DoubleClick for Advertisers)
  • Adobe Advertising Cloud DSP
  • StackAdapt
  • Verizon Media DSP
  • Basis by Centro
DSPs usually have two types of platforms, and these are self-serve DSPs and full-service DSPs. As the name implies, a self-serve platform gives advertisers full-control over their campaigns. It also means the user would have to take care of the analysis of data as well as campaign optimizations. For full-service platforms, each advertiser will have an account manager who will take care of setting up, managing and optimizing ads based on the advertiser’s goals.

The goal of a DSP is to help advertisers find the best ad spaces for the lowest price. They get their traffic inventory from SSPs, ad exchanges and even their own private publishers.

In essence, DSP is a traffic network, though it is meant for advertisers who need a large amount of traffic and those who have elastic budgets.

Who benefits from Programmatic Advertising?

You may be wondering how SSPs help publishers get the highest earnings for their ad space while at the same time the DSPs help advertisers get the lowest price for an ad space. It's actually pretty simple.

First, the SSP helps the publisher by finding the top bidder for the ad space at any given time. Then the DSP helps the advertiser win that ad spot by overbidding competitors by a small portion, and not using the maximum bid that the advertiser has set.

Let us say for example the advertiser specified a max bid of $0.020. If an ad space from a specific publisher that he's bidding on becomes available, the DSP will automatically join the bidding. If the highest bidder at that moment bids at $0.010, the program (knowing that the max bid of this advertiser is $0.020) will bid at $0.011. As you can see, the program bid above the competitors just enough to win the ad spot, helping the advertiser save $0.009 for that placement. As for the publisher, instead of earning just $0.010 for that placement, he earned $0.001 more. It's a win-win scenario.

It might have taken a while to explain the flow, but it actually takes less than a millisecond for the entire process to happen.

So to answer the question, both publishers and advertisers benefit from these platforms.

Should I use a DSP or an SSP?

If you have an app or a website and you want to sell the traffic you are receiving, then choose an SSP. An SSP will help you earn from your traffic; that is if you have millions of views and users. If you’re only hitting the thousand or hundred thousand mark, you would likely have to go for ad networks instead. They accept smaller publishers.

If you have a product you want to market or if there is a CPA offer you intend to promote, you need to buy advertising space. You should, therefore, choose a DSP. A DSP will help you display your ads around the web. Use a DSP if you have a big budget to spend on ads; otherwise, use traffic networks instead. Most DSPs require spending at least a few thousand dollars per month.

So in short, SSPs are for earning money, while DSPs are for buying traffic.

There are also some networks that have both platforms under one roof. One example is EvaDav. So if you’re confused about which to use, you can always join such networks.

The best way to understand these platforms more is to try them out for yourself, so go ahead and sign-up with one DSP or SSP today.