A quick guide to demand-side platforms

Ad exchanges, the technology platforms that seek to bring efficiency to ad impression buying, are gaining popularity and interest with online marketers. Much like paid search, ad exchanges offer advertisers transparency in an auction-based model where buyers and sellers let the technology play matchmaker based on the value of each and every impression. It's an industry shift to buying audiences, not sites or placements, and those who master their data can win in this stock market-like environment. 

Just as paid search management platforms arose to help users manage multiple engine accounts, so too was the need for tools to allow management of multiple ad exchange accounts. Thus, the demand-side platform (DSP) was born.

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Like search management platforms, DSPs bring all accounts into one tool for centralized management and reporting, but demand-side platforms do more than simply bring efficiency to handling multiple ad exchange accounts. They act as a central hub for handling whatever data you can bring in to help with the real-time bidding valuation that is crucial to successful ad exchange management.  

For example, you may be willing to bid a premium price to retarget users who have already visited your store or even just those who have abandoned your shopping carts. You can even subscribe to data exchanges such as BlueKai or eXelate and use that information to understand which impressions are most valuable to you. Using cookie data and data exchanges to increase targeting effectiveness is not a new concept; however, because you're using one DSP and not being put into silos between different exchanges, the combined power of all of your data is leveraged.  

One glaring industry issue is also solved by having an in-house DSP. Because many ad networks supplement their inventory with ad exchanges, it's very possible that using multiple ad networks at the same time will result in you actually bidding against yourself on the same impression. This has the potential to drive your costs up in an auction-based buying model. 

Some of the companies that offer demand-side platforms include:

[x+1] 
Tag line:  Make every interaction count.
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Founded: 1999
Products: Media+1, Landing Page+1, Site+1
Homepage quote: "We make online media and marketing more effective by identifying high-value customers and serving up relevant content, messages, and offers on ad units, sites and landing pages."
Notes:  [x+1]'s DSP is just a portion of its services. The company's partnership list is extensive and includes Atlas, BlueKai, and other well-known players in the exchange world.
Quote: "Our data-driven audience investment platform is helping usher in the next generation of audience targeting, giving marketers and agencies the ability to dynamically reach likely-to-buy consumers across all digital touch points -- websites, landing pages, display media, e-mail and video," says chairman and CEO John Nardone.

Invite Media
Tag line: Next generation platform for display media buying.
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Founded: 2007
Product: Bid Manager
Homepage quote: "The first universal buying platform for display media. Automatically buy from multiple ad exchanges in real-time, all through the same interface. Take the keys and build your own exchange practice."
Notes: Founded out of the University of Pennsylvania. Its board members and advisors include the founders of Real Media, Tacoda, Strategic Data Corporation, and Right Media.
Quote: "The expanding role of ad exchanges in the display ecosystem has created a huge opportunity for agencies and media buyers. Real-time targeting, optimization, reporting, transparent data integrations, and a whole host of other tools are now at their fingertips. If utilized correctly, the agency or media buyer can now successfully build an internal exchange practice with complete control." says Nat Turner, Invite's co-founder and CEO.

MediaMath 
Tag line: The enterprise-class buying platform for digital media.
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Founded: 2007
Product: TerminalOne
Homepage quote: "Agency partnership with MediaMath delivers tremendous reach and performance through one relationship -- the efficiency and rigorous measurement of search, the mass reach of television, the precise targeting of direct mail, and the creative and branding impact of display."
Notes: Founder and CEO Joe Zawadzki was previously the founder, president, and chairman of Poindexter Systems/[x+1], a pure-play marketing optimization company. [x+1] was named one of Inc.'s Top 500.
Quote: "MediaMath will be the dominant buying solution for digital media by powering the new marketing professional -- providing an unmatched combination of technology, supply, data, analytics, and workflow automation. Our goal is to be the operating system to which agencies turn for smart media buying, insights, and optimization so they can focus more on client strategy and less on execution," says Zawadzki.

Turn
Tag line: The smart platform for digital advertising
HQ: Redwood City, CA
Founded: 2008
Product: The Turn Platform
Homepage quote: "Turn's real-time media planning, buying, and optimization platform delivers custom audiences at scale with unmatched performance and actionable insights across the highest-quality inventory."
Notes: Turn was founded in 2004 to bring the efficiencies of search to online display.
Quote: "Turn is a software and services company with the industry's only end-to-end platform for managing data-driven digital advertising, with an infrastructure to support it. Turn's real-time media planning, buying, and optimization platform delivers the custom audiences the world's elite advertising agencies and brands want, at the scale they need, with unmatched performance and actionable analytics." says Bill Demas, Turn president and CEO.

Josh Dreller is VP of media technology and analytics at Fuor Digital.

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