Demand Side Platform vs. Supply Side Platform: What Marketers Need to Know

demand side platform vs supply side platform


Demand side platforms and supply side platforms are two key components of the programmatic advertising ecosystem.

The programmatic advertising ecosystem is made up of an incredibly complex web of relationships. Publishers, networks, exchanges, and countless tech companies all have roles to play in today’s digital advertising supply chain. Because the system is so complex and is constantly evolving, strategizing effectively can be difficult for publishers and advertisers alike. That’s why certain advertising technology (or adtech) solutions have emerged to better connect those two parties and allow them to manage advertising campaigns and inventory at scale. 

Distinguishing between demand side platform versus supply side platform technology is important because the two categories work together so closely. They’re inextricable pieces of the programmatic puzzle. In the simplest explanation, a supply side platform (SSP) sells advertising inventory, and a demand side platform (DSP) buys advertising inventory. Basically: SSPs sell, DSPs buy. With that said, there are nuances to each that are helpful to understand. Here’s what marketers need to know about demand side and supply side platform advertising.

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Demand Side Platform vs Supply Side Platform (DSP vs SSP)

Best practices for managing DSPs and SSPs

Demand side platform vs supply side platform (DSP vs SSP)

In the context of programmatic advertising, “Supply” refers to companies that supply ad inventory: primarily publishers and ad networks. “Demand” refers to companies that buy ad inventory: primarily advertisers and media agencies.

A supply side advertising platform (SSP) works on behalf of publishers/ad networks to provide supply (ad inventory) to buyers (advertisers/agencies) at scale.

A demand side advertising platform (DSP) works on behalf of buyers (advertisers/agencies) to provide demand (advertisers) to suppliers (publishers/ad networks).

These two types of advertising technology form a symbiotic relationship that are the basis of programmatic advertising real-time bidding. This advertising technology maximizes efficiency for companies on both sides of the buy/sell equation. Here’s a breakdown of each.

The demand side platform explained

Demand Side Platforms, or DSPs, are adtech systems that allow advertisers to purchase and manage their ad inventory efficiently by running ad campaigns across multiple publishers at the same time. DSPs distill the complex advertising supply chain — including all its networks, exchanges, and programmatic platforms — into a single interface. This streamlines the process of ad buying and inventory management for advertisers. The demand side platform architecture includes optimization tools that empower advertisers to control their ad creative, enhance ad performance, sharpen their targeting, unify their reporting, and maximize user acquisitions and return on ad spend (ROAS).

DSP examples

Here are some of the top demand side platform programmatic advertising providers:

  • Liftoff: With a focus on serving performance advertisers, Liftoff’s DSP promises to be “everything you need for global app growth”. The mobile-first platform offers a range of features like ad inventory selection, audience targeting, programmatic bidding, and ad creative to support user acquisition and re-engagement campaigns.
  • Moloco: The Moloco Cloud DSP promises to help advertisers achieve their goals around acquiring, re-engaging, and retaining high-value mobile app users through machine learning-powered custom prediction models. Moloco serves over 21 billion ad impressions each month and delivers more than 15 billion predictions per second.

Other Tapjoy partner demand side platform examples include: 

The supply side platform explained

Supply Side Platforms, or SSPs, are adtech solutions that allow publishers and digital media owners to manage and sell ad inventory efficiently. For game publishers, that typically means monetizing free-to-download apps with third-party advertising creative. SSPs enable publishers to fill their available inventory and maximize revenue at the same time, through selling ad space in real-time bidding auctions, in which advertisers compete for the most valuable impressions. 

Just like DSPs, SSPs streamline the advertising ecosystem into a simple management interface. The main difference is that DSPs support buying and SSPs support selling; together, demand side platform and supply side platform technologies address both ends of the programmatic advertising ecosystem.

SSP examples

Looking for a list of supply side platforms that marketers need to know? Look no further. These supply side platforms help publishers manage monetization and make supply accessible to advertisers:

  • Tapjoy: By connecting publishers with premium demand sources, Tapjoy helps unlock maximum monetization potential. High-performing formats like Tapjoy’s full screen interstitial video help publishers use their monetization strategies to enhance user experience and increase revenue at the same time.
  • IronSource: With one of the most mature rewarded video SSPs in the entire industry, IronSource offers developers a one-stop shop for managing and optimizing across multiple demand sources. 

Best practices for managing DSPs and SSPs

These are the best practices marketers should use to help them get the most out of each adtech type.

Understand available inventory

It’s important for both DSPs and SSPs to understand the various types of inventory being managed. Selecting the right platform for your specific needs takes careful thought. Find out each platform’s technical capabilities, access to inventory – such as in-app or mobile web – and technical capabilities.

Both advertisers and publishers should also consider ad formats; evaluate if and how the platform handles static images, video, rich media, full-screen interstitials, native ads, or any other format that is of particular importance to your audience.

Check for targeting capabilities

One of the most critical features of a demand side platform is the ability to reach the right users at the right time. To determine whether or not a DSP will allow you to effectively target your audience, find out what targeting signals the platform supports — device type, operating system, geographic location, etc. — and how that data is obtained. 

Even though effective audience targeting is critical to any advertising strategy, it’s a good idea to kick off your DSP engagement by reaching as many publishers as possible. Your goal should still be to scale up quickly, but this strategy does prioritize impressions over conversions right out of the gate. Opening your creative to a wider audience to begin with will arm you with powerful data that supports campaign optimization and improves your long-term strategy.

Prioritize brand protection

Both DSPs and SSPs introduce efficiency to the programmatic ecosystem by automating certain parts of the process. While automation is incredibly useful in the digital advertising space, it also poses risks. That’s why it’s important to select a DSP or SSP that provides fraud detection and helps protect brand safety. The ability to block and allow specific apps or app categories is one example of how advertisers and publishers can prioritize brand protection while partnering with DSPs and SSPs.

There are clear differences between demand side platform vs supply side platform advertising technology, but they function like two halves of a whole. Factors that are important for advertisers also impact publishers, and vice versa. Because those considerations also have a critical influence on ad spend and return on investment, it helps to have a professional partner. Tapjoy’s private programmatic marketplace gives publishers and advertisers access to over 2 billion global monthly active users and over 30,000 directly integrated apps. Contact us today to learn more.

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