Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Online Advertising Explained: DMPs, SSPs, DSPs and RTB

Digital advertising is growing rapidly, with online display advertising alone forecast to grow by a torrid 36% year-over-year by 2013, according to advertising firm ZenithOptimedia. Yet not all companies can generate profit in this rapidly moving industry, with much of the growth not benefiting media and news organisations but rather search engines, such as Google, Yandex and Baidu; established internet players such as Yahoo! and Microsoft; and social networks including Facebook, Twitter, and Russia’s vKontakte and Odnoklassniki.

With high growth and intense competition, news organisations need to stay on top of the latest developments to be competitive in the data-driven marketing era. Digital media poses business challenges, but it also requires news groups to understand key pieces of technology and terminology.

While the basic proposition of matching advertisers with audiences remains unchanged, in the digital world serving up highly targeted advertising has developed into the incredibly fast interchange of data and ad inventory between interconnected elements of advertising services platforms.  In plain English, as Ben Kneen at Ad Ops Insider says, incredibly powerful computers are running at companies such as Google’s DoubleClick and its rival Atlas that allow the buying and selling of highly targeted ads in milliseconds.

To get a strategic view of these ad technologies, we take a look at the challenges and opportunities for news organisations brought about by real-time bidding (or programmatic buying, as it is also known) in a discussion with digital advertising expert, Rodney Mayers, Chief Revenue Officer of data publishing company Proximic.

Initially one of the biggest challenges is understanding the terminology and the bewildering array of acronyms. This guide will help you make sense of it all.

Ad Exchanges – Just like a stock exchange, ad exchanges serve as an open online advertising market for buyers (publishers) and sellers (advertisers) to connect. Search advertising has captured a lot of the growth in digital advertising in the past decade fueling the development of search engines. While ruling the search engineSearch engineA website that provides a searchable index of online content, whereby users…//read more  market in many countries, Google acquired ad exchangeAd exchangeAn ad exchange is a sales channel between publishers and ad networks that can…//read more  DoubleClick, which rapidly became the biggest player amongst real-timeReal-timeEvents that happen “live” at a particular moment. When one chats in a chat…//read more  ad networksAd networksAd networks provide an outsourced sales capability for publishers and a means…//read more . Google’s ad exchange helps advertisers to run display ad campaigns across the Google Content Network and on YouTube. By leveraging this platform, advertisers and publishers find it easier to manage and monitor ad campaigns in a multitude of formats and across thousands of websites.

Recently, major media companies such as Hearst and Condé Nast  and broadcaster NBC, all in the US, have launched their own private ad exchanges, enticing buyers with ever-more detailed data that advertisers can use to more accurately target the publishers’ audiences.

Data Management Platforms (DMPs) – Companies use DMPs to collect and analyse huge amounts of data from many different sources. DMPs are now so powerful that companies can track users and customers who visitVisitA single continous set of activity attributable to a cookied browser or user…//read more  from banners, Facebook pages, Tweets, mobile, video and even offline applications. They collect and analyse data from cookies, small files that keep website settings and also record user behaviour. For example, DMPs can allow e-commerce sites, publishers and advertisers to find out how many users who bought a big screen TV online also searched for high-end digital cameras in the past week.

DMPs consolidate user data into a centralised platform. They can be used not only for buying ad impressions, but also to help publishers achieve the long-term goal of attracting predefined targetable audiences. DMPs can help publishers gain more precise information about their audiences, which is useful not only in helping to sell more targeted, more effective advertising, but also in providing greater insight into the needs and interests of their readers or viewers.

DMPs can provide extremely useful insights, however publishers shouldn’t be misled into thinking that they are the sole source of useful audience data. “While DMPs do an admirable job creating segments based on data collected across multiple sites, publishers have their own treasure trove of data that often is under-leveraged for ad sales purposes,” says John Strabley, a media analyst writing for Business 2 Community.

Real-Time Bidding (RTB) – Based on campaign goals and audience profiles, real-time bidding allows ad buyers to bid for each and every impressionImpression(Also called a View) A single display of online content to a user’s web-enabled…//read more . This dynamic transformation is called a “bidder” which can be built into any of the above platforms. For publishers, they can keep track of all their bids and build a picture of demand down to the advertiser level. However, one thing publishers should keep in mind is that data leakage is a potential risk in RTBRTB (Real-time bidding)RTB is a protocol that enables the valuation and bidding on individual…//read more  platforms. Other parties using DSPs (Demand Side Platforms – see below) can read the stream of pages that come through in bid requests and use that to gain intelligence on their competitors.

Real-time bidding platforms still tend to be small relative to the total online advertising market, representing just $1.1 bn out of the total online advertising market, according to technology analysis firm IDC.

Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs) – SSPs provide publishers with an effective way to measure the monetization of mobile and website attention. Attention data includes a range of statistics such as how much time visitors spend on a site, the number of pages or pieces of content a visitorVisitorIndividual or browser which accesses a Web site within a specific time period.//read more  views per sessionSession1) a sequence of Internet activity made by one user at one site. If a user…//read more  and the percentage of return visitors to your site. SSPs allow publishers to jump into the ad exchange to make their inventory available and optimize selling of their online media space. More practically, they help publishers sell their inventory at a higher price because publishers can demonstrate more clearly how their content performs to advertisers.

Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) – DSPs work together with ad exchanges and SSPs. These three elements support real-time bidding because they give buyers and sellers the ability to “value inventory on an impression-by-impression in real-time,” says Ben Kneen on his site, According to Kneen, the interplay of these systems enables targeted ads to be bid on and served to a browserBrowserA software program that can request, download, cache and display documents…//read more  in about 50 milliseconds.

DSPs submit a bid to the SSP along with an ad based on their valuation of a specific impression, determined from data about the user. The SSP picks the winning bid and serves up the ad. It is this complicated interplay of user data and bidding servers, the DSPs, SSPs and ad exchanges, that enables the near-instantaneous delivery of targeted advertising to users.

For news organisations, the key thing to remember is that the increasingly sophisticated use of user data is allowing the ever-increasing targeting of advertising. We’ll be looking at how to develop your advertising strategy in upcoming editions of the Digital Briefing.

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Article by Ran Ju

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