What Is a Demand-Side Platform and How Does It Work in Advertising?

Not too long ago, it was still possible for advertisers to pilot all their ad campaigns on two primary platforms: Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Nowadays, the surge of a wide diversity of ad spaces in all shapes, displays, and formats has pushed B2B marketers to conduct their paid media activities through demand-side platforms (DSPs).

The B2B lead generation process grows more complex every year. Forrester found that 92% of the interviewed B2B decision-makers claimed that once they come across an appealing ad, they jump into a search engine to research the featured company, solution, or topic instead of actually clicking on the ad.

This doesn't mean that the click-through rates are no longer significant factors in determining the success of a specific ad campaign; it only suggests that B2B advertisers need to consider buyer behavior. In other words, B2B outbound practices are changing.

According to Statista, the United States was the largest programmatic advertising market worldwide in 2021, with estimated spending of 167 billion U.S. dollars. No programmatic ad campaign can be executed without a reliable demand-side platform. So let's dive into the definition of DSPs to understand better their impact on the current state of B2B marketing.

What Is a Demand-Side Platform?

A demand-side platform is software that connects advertisers with ad space inventories from multiple publishers. Then, it purchases and manages the ad according to which space would perform better with a selected target audience. 

DSPs are key components in the programmatic advertising procedure, which refers to the process of buying and selling digital ad space in real-time bidding through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning software. The operation occurs in less than 100 milliseconds and is entirely automated.

While DSPs focus on the buying part of the deal, data management platforms (DMPs) gather, organize, and deploy first-, second-, and third-party audience data from all online, offline, and mobile sources. Finally, supply-side platforms (SSPs) take care of programmatic selling by paying publishers for the offered ad space.

Some of the most relevant perks of deploying DSPs are:

  • Marketers can create, run, and analyze multiple campaigns simultaneously through a centralized user interface.
  • High-quality target audiences can be accessed with minimal friction.
  • Algorithms optimize the campaigns automatically to boost the return on investment (ROI) rate.
  • Real-time changes can be made to improve results at any campaign stage.
  • Advertisers can review detailed reports of the ad campaign progress whenever needed.

In simple words, the function of a DSP in marketing is to help advertisers acquire and manage all the ads they require despite their format (banners, videos, voice, etc.) or their display (Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) on a single screen. This makes ad buying faster, cheaper, and more efficient for both advertising and publishing parties.

How Does a DSP Work?

Demand-side platforms are only a tiny piece of the programmatic advertising puzzle. That said, they are also the foundation of the whole B2B lead generation strategy. DSP advertising techniques involve three main steps: 

1. Uploading creative assets.

Advertisers upload assets they believe are appropriate for their target audience. Crafting ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and buyer personas is a great way to identify what imagery, copy, and call-to-actions (CTAs) could generate positive interactions more effectively.

2. Selecting targeting options.

Marketers must select targeting inside the DSP. By implementing data segmentation tactics, which are actions that dissect account-related data through different criteria, it is possible to organize users into specific categories to make them more actionable for sales strategies.

3. Establishing a budget.

Campaign managers set the desired budget. The DSP can now carefully examine its network of ad space providers for websites, digital platforms, and mobile apps that meet the advertiser's requirements. The DSP settles the bid, places the ad, and manages payment in milliseconds, concluding the process.

Demand-side platform advertising is all about impressions. Every time a DSP receives a request from an SSP informing it that an impression is available, the DSP examines the users' data and determines their value depending on how well they match the targeting settings.

Standard programmatic digital display ads often have a CPM (cost per mile or cost per thousand impressions) of $0.50 to $2.00, and video ads go around $12.64 CPM.

What is a Demand Side Platform_2What Are the Main Components of DSP Advertising?

Some DSP providers hold special features that accelerate or simplify certain processes. That said, every demand-side platform works with the same structure using the same programmatic advertising equation.

While the names of the elements may differ, here are the key components involved in DSP digital marketing campaigns:


Bidders are essential for DSP advertising, as they are the programs that place the bids on ad impressions through the real-time bidding (RTB) procedure. As the bidding process occurs in milliseconds, executing the bid as quickly as feasible is crucial for the campaign's success. Bidders also deploy multiple data centers worldwide to forecast impression bids that may match a defined goal.

Ad server

Ad servers are in charge of meeting the required ad elements inside the publisher’s website. They also offer fraud protection tools that spot fake advertising inventory and provide impression and conversion data that marketers can use to optimize the ad campaign. DSPs can work with internal ad servers or integrate an external one if needed.

Campaign tracker

No DSP advertising effort would be completed without the capacity to track and store data about the performance of an ad campaign. Campaign trackers process information about the impressions, ad viewability, clicks, CTR, conversions, and ad spending of each operation so they can be analyzed and put to work.

User profiling

DSPs have the ability to record user data every time an interaction takes place. This allows the system to construct user profiles, assign them with certain attributes, and place them inside particular audience segments so they can be targeted in remarketing campaigns and other follow-up tactics.

Budget manager

This element enables advertisers to specify the campaign's budget constraints, such as the maximum budget for each campaign or the rules for how the budget should be spent. This includes parameters like how much budget needs to be used daily, weekly, or monthly, and marketers can stop or edit the spending however they want.

External integrations

DSPs need to be able to connect with the rest of the programmatic advertising tools, like DMPs and SSPs, to accomplish the ad buying and selling process. For this reason, it is wise to confirm what integrations are already included and which need to be arranged before working with a DPS provider.

Launch Your Ad Campaign With CIENCEWhat is a Demand Side Platform_3The Importance of DSPs in B2B Marketing

Gartner found that the typical B2B buying group involves six to ten decision-makers, each bringing at least four pieces of information to back up their proposals. For this reason, B2B marketers are bound to take advantage of the tools that will help them reach the right person, through the most effective channel, at the proper time. 

Old-fashioned ad practices required marketers to jump in and out of advertising platforms to set the same campaign in different showcases. Demand-side platform advertising allows B2B marketers to manage, track, and optimize the results of all digital ads through a single dashboard.

The following are some examples of how DSPs have shaped B2B outbound practices:

Contact with publishers

Back in the day, advertisers had to manually find their audiences' most reviewed websites, contact the owners, make their bidding, and wait for their ads to be published.

Nowadays, DSPs have direct access to millions of digital website publishers. This enables them to select the most suited ones according to the target audience, budget, and several other criteria in less than the three seconds needed to load the web page.

Ad inventory selection

Static banners, videos, social media posts, voice ads, and even digital out-of-home (DOOH) displays are at the disposal of B2B advertisers. All these formats come in different sizes and have specific intents. Without DSPs, getting any ad campaign running would take a lifetime, and figuring out which ad had what result would be close to impossible.

By implementing DSP marketing strategies, a vast number of ad spaces from multiple sources are analyzed, processed, and chosen depending on preselected filters, all thanks to advanced AI and machine learning methodologies.

High-end targeting

Intent data applications have made it possible to gain a deeper understanding of each user's data footprint. As B2B prospects grow their awareness of how their information is being used, DSPs adapt to update the most relevant traits of the desired buyers automatically.

Top-notch DSPs allow marketers to aim their campaigns at specific B2B target audiences by integrating advanced filters like titles, industries, company size, and more.

What is a Demand Side Platform_1

Data-centered optimization

The upcoming cookieless digital scene will transform third-party data integrations for good. This means that DSPs will be forced to rely on first-party data for their targeting procedures, which is amazing news for all B2B marketers and advertisers.

As the targeted prospects have already stated that they are currently searching for a solution, the data involved in all programmatic advertising operations will be richer and more accurate.

Omnichannel outreach

According to a McKinsey survey, over 3,500 B2B decision-makers agreed they desire in-person, remote, and self-service outreach delivered 24/7. Without this level of responsiveness, they are willing to take their businesses elsewhere.

Thankfully, DSPs make it possible for advertisers to continue the sales conversation at any point in the buyer's journey, thanks to their ability to program and execute different ad campaigns depending on the triggered CTAs.

Real-time reaction

Effectiveness is the name of the game. B2B advertisers need to be able to track the spending, performance, and results of all their campaigns in a simple and organized matter.

DSPs provide several information resources and reports so marketers can boost the most profitable campaigns and stop the ones that aren't meeting their expectations before they waste more money.

7 Top Demand-Side Platform Examples

Selecting the right DSP for your business is no simple task. With so many great alternatives in the market, it is important to understand what features would be more valuable for your team and objectives.

All the following options are well-established DSPs that are already helping hundreds of B2B companies to take their programmatic ad game to the next level:

Demand-Side Platform Examples

1. CIENCE GO Digital

CIENCE GO Digital is a DSP designed to meet the demands of the B2B environment. Its sophisticated audience-targeting system simplifies the process of reaching out to specific B2B personas. It also provides a Bidder-as-a-Service ad management solution, enabling marketers to access a highly customizable RTB cloud platform.

Key features:

  • Precisely target millions of individual business users
  • First-party data-validated contacts
  • 100+ B2B filters like title, industry, company size, and more
  • Support for any ad format and size
  • Detailed analytics and reporting
  • Fine-grain bidding options and control
  • Tracking pixel integration for remarketing/retargeting campaigns

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2. Basis Technologies

Basis Technologies is an omnichannel DSP that automatically evaluates data from a variety of settings to optimize ad campaigns. It can target audiences across a variety of devices and touchpoints. Additionally, the platform uses machine learning to automate tasks and analyze data.

Key features:

  • Over thirty different data suppliers
  • Programmatic, search, social, and site-direct media management
  • In-house media buying
  • API integration

3. Knorex

Knorex is an advertising platform able to automate customized marketing campaigns across devices, platforms, and ad formats. It uses AI to forecast ad budgets in real-time to increase efficiency. It comes with a number of built-in privacy and security capabilities.

Key features:

  • Supports omnichannel campaigns
  • Historical data analytics
  • AI-based native ad generation
  • Unified reporting from all campaigns

4. Jampp

Jampp is a DSP that uses programmatic advertising to deliver customers and in-app purchases. It specializes in mobile-first ads, focusing on user acquisition and app retargeting. The platform also provides geotargeting, dynamic advertisements, and predictive bidding for mobile campaigns.

Key features:

  • Predictive algorithms applications
  • Contextual and behavioral analytics
  • Automated testing technologies
  • Over 800M mobile users reached daily

5. MediaMath

With MediaMath, brands have a wide range of options for managing their advertising campaigns. It provides built-in creative tools to run adverts on its server. Clients can customize the dashboard components to work with a tailor-made solution version. It also allows APIs to run on the client's core foundation.

Key features:

  • Dynamic budget allocation
  • First-party data-modeled audiences
  • Flexible identity core
  • Third-party attribution integrations

6. Google Marketing Platform

The Google Marketing Platform unifies analytics and advertising dashboards. Although Google's products are made to function together, they also allow for server-to-server integrations and the usage of optional third-party capabilities. With this tool, it is possible to optimize media and creative performance across all digital campaigns.

Key features:

  • Campaign Manager 360 and Display & Video 360
  • Third-party data integration
  • Easy-to-use tools
  • Personalized solutions for small and large businesses 

7. Smadex

Smadex is a mobile-focused DSP. The platform combines first-party data, machine learning, and its own programmatic advertising engine. With the help of this platform, it is possible to retarget audiences and reach them at scale on a worldwide level.

Key features:

  • Multidimensional reporting with over 350 variables
  • Frequency cap technology to match users
  • Managed, hybrid, and self-service
  • Brand safety tools

Use DSP Marketing to Generate More Leads

B2B outbound campaigns driven by demand-side platforms are here to stay. As decision-makers desire to know more about how solution providers leverage their data, automating the ad buying process through real-time bidding is necessary for almost all advertisers that aim to fill their pipelines with high-quality leads.

While some traditional marketers still find programmatic advertising too complex for their daily activities, many DSPs are adapting their tools to make them more organic and accessible for everyone. This way, every company will have the opportunity to approach its desired prospects and demonstrate why they are the best choice.

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