What’s the difference between a DSP and SSP?

Programmatic advertising is full of complex terms and layered jargon. We’ll help translate some of the different aspects of the programmatic process for site owners.

what's the difference between a dsp and ssp

To the uninitiated, programmatic advertising can feel like an obscure, unclear concept. The acronyms all sound similar, and there’s too many terms that mean sort of the same thing, but not quite. For site owners looking to monetize, it’s crucial that they understand programmatic advertising to get the most revenue from their site.

We want to help lift the veil on some of programmatic’s more confusing quirks, by beginning a blog series that takes a deep dive into a programmatic term or operation. If you’re looking to learn more about programmatic advertising, we’ll help you break it down. In this blog, we’ll explore the difference between a demand-side platform (DSP) and a supply-side platform (SSP).

What is it?

Though DSPs and SSPs are undeniably intertwined, let’s separate them for explanation’s sake. A DSP is used by advertisers who are looking to run a campaign and require ad inventory. You can think of a DSP like a Most Wanted board outside of a sheriff’s office in the Wild West. Advertisers set the parameters of their request (or bounty, if you’re following the metaphor) with things like campaign creatives, user targeting, and budget. Automated processes act as the bounty hunter, combing through available, matching ad inventory that suit the campaign requirements, then engaging the campaign. This all happens in a matter of milliseconds, over and over all across the Internet. The magic of automation!

An SSP services publishers who are looking to list their available ad space for interested advertisers to snap up. You can consider an SSP to be a members-only marketplace, full of site owners selling their wares. Site owners or ad networks can list their available inventory and identify their ideal buyer. Maybe they only want advertisers who align with their audience’s interests, or they want to limit advertisers from a different geographic location to their user base. If you’re ever unsure about who’s selling or buying what, remember it’s all in the name. Demand-side platforms are for advertisers to publish their demands, supply-side platforms are for site owners to publish their available supply.

How do we use it?

DSPs and SSPs often work in tandem, connected by ad exchanges and networks. SSPs ensure that valuable ad inventory isn’t going unsold on our sites, and DSPs keep our advertisers’ campaigns on track. Because both DSPs and SSPs utilize automated buying and selling, it allows for competitive pricing between publishers and advertisers, and facilitates speedy, accurate campaign execution.

When we provide inventory to an SSP, we can parcel up our inventory with the most enticing attributes front and center. Think listed interests or metrics. This means we can transact via Private Deals or a curated marketplace through SSPs.

The technology supporting DSPs and SSPs is only becoming more advanced, which means the system processes are only going to become more accessible for site owners looking to monetize. Advertisers can have more control over the audience they’re looking to reach, and publishers can feel their users are receiving relevant advertising. Win win!

We’ll be posting more breakdowns of key programmatic terms and processes on our blog, so check back here for new content. If you’re a site owner, you can apply to join the Collective here. Advertiser? Get in touch with us here.