Mastering Demand Side Platform (DSP) Buying: Best Practices for Success

Mastering Demand Side Platform (DSP) Buying: Best Practices for Success

In the world of digital advertising, Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) have emerged as indispensable tools for advertisers looking to reach their target audience effectively and efficiently. These platforms offer a wealth of opportunities, but to make the most of them, advertisers need to employ best practices for DSP buying. In this article, we’ll explore the top strategies and guidelines to ensure your DSP campaigns yield optimal results.

1. Define Clear Objectives

Before you start using a DSP, it’s crucial to define clear campaign objectives. Ask yourself:

  • What are you trying to achieve (e.g., brand awareness, lead generation, sales)?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What key performance indicators (KPIs) will you use to measure success (e.g., click-through rate, conversion rate, return on ad spend)?

Having well-defined objectives will guide your campaign strategy and help you select the right DSP features and settings to achieve your goals.

2. Audience Segmentation

Segmentation is the backbone of successful DSP buying. Break your target audience into distinct segments based on demographics, behaviors, interests, and other relevant factors. This allows you to tailor your ad creative and messaging for maximum relevance. DSPs provide sophisticated targeting options, so take advantage of them to reach the right people at the right time.

3. Data Integration

Leverage first-party and third-party data to enhance your targeting capabilities. Integrating your customer data with DSPs can help you create custom audience segments and deliver highly personalized ads. Additionally, third-party data providers can offer valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences, further refining your targeting strategy.

4. Ad Creative Optimization

Compelling ad creative can significantly impact campaign performance. Ensure that your ad creatives are visually appealing, relevant, and in line with your brand’s messaging. A/B testing can help identify which creatives resonate best with your audience, allowing you to refine your approach over time.

5. Budget Management

Set a clear budget and bidding strategy for your campaigns. DSPs offer various bidding options, such as cost per mille (CPM), cost per click (CPC), and cost per acquisition (CPA). Carefully analyze your KPIs to determine the most cost-effective bidding strategy for your objectives. Be prepared to adjust your budget based on campaign performance and market conditions.

6. Real-time Optimization

One of the key advantages of DSPs is their ability to provide real-time data and insights. Monitor your campaigns closely and make adjustments as needed. Pause underperforming ads, allocate more budget to top-performing segments, and fine-tune your targeting parameters to improve results. Continuous optimization is crucial for maximizing ROI.

7. Cross-Channel Integration

Consider integrating your DSP campaigns with other marketing channels, such as social media, search advertising, and email marketing. This cohesive approach ensures that your messaging remains consistent across platforms and maximizes the impact of your campaigns.

8. Brand Safety and Ad Fraud Prevention

Protect your brand by implementing strict brand safety measures within your DSP. Use tools that can detect and prevent fraudulent activity and ensure your ads are not displayed in inappropriate or harmful environments. Brand reputation is paramount in advertising.

9. Performance Analytics and Reporting

DSPs offer robust reporting capabilities. Regularly review performance metrics to gauge the success of your campaigns. Analyze conversion paths, attribution models, and audience insights to refine your targeting and messaging further.

10. Stay Informed and Evolve

The digital advertising landscape is dynamic, with new technologies and trends emerging regularly. Stay informed about industry developments and be prepared to adapt your DSP buying strategies accordingly. Continual learning and flexibility are key to long-term success.

Demand-side platforms have revolutionized digital advertising, offering advertisers unprecedented control and precision in reaching their target audience. By implementing these best practices for DSP buying, you can harness the full potential of these platforms to drive impressive results for your advertising campaigns. Remember that success in DSP buying often requires a combination of strategic planning, data-driven decision-making, and ongoing optimization.

Reach out to us today for a consultation regarding your DSP needs.


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Selecting a DSP Partner

Selecting a DSP Partner

Whether you’re ready to graduate from Google Ads and Meta or you’re attracted to exciting new channels, selecting a demand side platform (DSP) partner to manage your programmatic journey is probably the most challenging process a marketing organization can undertake. No two DSPs are alike and each one boasts their own pros and cons that need to be carefully weighed. Before you start the process of researching potential DSP partners here are three items to consider: 


No DSP has access to all of the available digital ad supply out there. Ad platforms that also own and operate (O&O) web properties tend to make you buy that inventory from them directly. Examples include YouTube only being available from DV360/Google Ads and Prime Video is only available via Amazon DSP. Other platforms reach exclusive deals to manage inventory. For example, Yahoo DSP has a deal with Microsoft to manage XBOX, MSN, and other properties they own. 

While there is nothing stopping you from working with multiple DSPs (if you have enough budget, more on this below), it is definitely easier to limit the number of DSPs you work with. The more platforms you add to your tech stack the more complicated it can become to manage. 

We recommend that you determine what inventory is most important to you. Most DSPs specialize in being the platform of choice for specific types of inventory such as CTV, streaming audio, native, or high value O&O inventory. 


Data is another aspect to consider when selecting a DSP. Much like O&O inventory, major ad tech players can keep their data behind their walled garden. An example of this is the Amazon DSP. If you want to target consumers based upon the ecommerce data (or Whole Foods data) that Amazon has, you have to use their DSP to do it. 

It is pretty easy to identify the handful of DSPs with unique data sets. Amazon, DV360 (Google), Yahoo, Roku, and Beeswax (Comcast) are the main players with large amounts of O&O data. Are you looking to target households with CTV? Perhaps you should look at Beeswax or Roku and their access to subscriber data. Is Google ads a major source of traffic for you right now? Perhaps it’s time to step up to DV360 to significantly increase the targeting/segmentation options there. 


Knowing that Google and Amazon have unique data as well as high value O&O inventory, it is logical that many buyers want to use their DSP. Unfortunately, to work directly with either platform you need a seven-figure budget. Otherwise, you will be forced to work with one of their partners to access the DSP. These marketing partners will take a small cut of your spend, but you will still need to commit to spending six figures per year to access these platforms. 

The next item to consider is whether or not you have the bandwidth to learn, setup, and manage your own DSP (self-service) or if you need the platform to manage it for you (managed service). If you do not have a very experienced media buyer on staff, managed service is probably the best option for you. There is a pretty steep learning curve to understanding DSPs, so it’s not for a beginner. That said, managed service comes at a premium cost since the platform will need to staff your account with support. 

As you can see there are a lot of big decisions that go into selecting a DSP. There is no one size fits all approach to this process. If you are looking for some advice on which platform is right for you, feel free to connect with us. We are happy to help! 

Channel & Tactic Spotlight: Connected TV, Contextual, Hyperlocal, & First-Party Data

Channel & Tactic Spotlight: Connected TV, Contextual, Hyperlocal, & First-Party Data

Programmatic, Channel Spotlight, Tactic Spotlight – October 20, 2020

This blog post is the first in a series that will highlight channels, tactics, and the intersection of how to leverage both to create highly targeted programmatic campaigns.

Today we highlight the Connected TV (CTV) channel along with the contextual, hyperlocal and first-party targeting tactics.


Connected TV (CTV) is video inventory that is streamed from an internet connection.

The connection is made via a streaming device like a Smart TV, gaming system, Roku, Apple TV, Fire Stick, etc.

You will see many people in the industry refer to CTV interchangeably with another acronym, OTT (Over The Top). The term “over the top” comes from the fact that the video content circumvents traditional video delivery bypassing satellite and cable distributors (or goes “over the top” of them, directly to the consumer via an internet connected device).

Currently, more than 80% of American consumers stream at least some of their TV content via CTV.



Contextual targeting allows advertisers to select keywords and topics that are relevant to the product or service they are marketing.

Contextual targeting can be done multiple ways programmatically. The most commonly used methods include:

  • Hand-picking domains (known as “whitelisting”) to serve ads on

  • Creating private marketplace partnerships with relevant publishers

  • Using 3rd party data providers that scan context for keywords and relevancy


Location targeting is exactly what it sounds like: it allows marketers to target people based upon location.

In the age of big data, machine learning, and AI, location targeting has a number of implementations that allow marketers to precisely target audiences based upon where they are and even where they have been.


This is the data that you collect directly from your customers and audiences that visit your website(s) and app(s).

First Party Data is generally stored in your CRM, DMPs, CDPs, and/or within pixels. It can include everything from name, address, email, phone number to device IDs, survey data, purchase history, and more.

The Intersecting Opportunity

TV advertising is incredibly powerful. There are few opportunities to get 15 or 30 seconds of undivided attention to pitch potential customers on a product or service.

Unfortunately TV advertising has been a dream for most marketers due to the high cost and inefficiency of targeting too wide of an area.


As more consumers stream television over their internet connection marketers can now place TV commercials programmatically. This allows advertisers to target using many of the same tactics you can use for other digital ad buys, including contextual and location targeting.

The implication for local and regional advertisers is enormous. Especially for brick and mortar advertisers. 

There are a number of studies that correlate proximity to consumer purchase behavior. Essentially, patronage decreases the further a customer lives from a place of business.

With CTV, advertisers can drop a pin on their location(s), analyze their first party data to see a heatmap of where their customers live, and target TV ads to streamers accordingly based on their location (i.e. likelihood that they will actually visit their place of business).

Additionally, advertisers can select contextually relevant content to place their ads around. For example, if you own a sporting goods store you can choose to advertise on relevant networks like ESPN and Fox Sports as well as sporting events when they appear on network channels.

When combining context, location, and first party data with a powerful marketing channel like Connected TV you can drastically decrease the cost of TV advertising.

By shrinking the geographic location where your ads are shown to target an area and audience that is highly likely to be interested in your product or service AND likely to visit your place of business you can create an affordable TV advertising campaign with a high return on ad spend for your business.


Rise of The Private Marketplace

Rise of The Private Marketplace

Programmatic – August 3, 2020

The dream of a fully open and accessible internet for digital advertisers has taken a lot of shots in the last few years. At this point, it’s safe to say the digital ad buying landscape will remain fragmented for the foreseeable future.

So how can we make the digital media buying experience as efficient as possible for today’s advertisers? In my opinion, it starts with taking a deep dive into private marketplaces (PMPs) that are accessed programmatically.

What is a Private Marketplace (PMP)?

A PMP is a deal that is negotiated with a publisher or exchange that provides access to specified inventory.

These deals are bought programmatically so you can leverage economies of scale across various PMPs as well as open exchange buys at the same time. This makes it easier to manage frequency, targeting, etc across a larger segment of your ad buy.

For experienced programmatic traders, a PMP is essentially a deeper relationship with a specific publisher or group of publishers.

Why should we leverage Private Marketplaces?

  • PMPs can come with access to a publishers’ first party data. Do you want to target 25-40 year olds streaming their television content? There is a solution for you.

  • Secure guaranteed ad placement. Do you want to ensure 80+% viewability? Want to do a full page takeover? There are solutions out there for that too.

  • Get really creative with the types of deals you put together with publishers. It also gives you the flexibility to work on incredibly niche deals. Are you looking to get in front of millennial gardeners and you know of blogs they typically flock to? Set up a PMP!

In an era when Facebook, YouTube, et al seem to be constantly moving the goal posts in terms of what audiences you can reach and how you can reach them, it’s good to know that there are opportunities to reach your audiences beyond the walled gardens.

If you are a brand that has squeezed all of the efficiency that you possibly can out of search and social, the next step for you is testing PMPs!

Contact Population Science today to learn more about how to leverage PMPs for your brand!

Retargeting – The Forgotten Tactic

Retargeting – The Forgotten Tactic

Programmatic – May 7, 2020

As I talk with clients and prospects about adapting to changing media consumption, one theme seems to be emerging: nobody is interested in talking about their retargeting strategy. 

Reasons given include:

  • Marketers have simply put retargeting on cruise control using “set it and forget it” programs.

  • With cookies disappearing in two years, what is the point to revisit?

  • Marketers have been focused on new and emerging trends.

It’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking you’re already maximizing your retargeting program. The truth is you probably are not.

Programmatic has changed the game when it comes to retargeting consumers. Emerging channels are being woven into the equation, creating new opportunities to retarget with video, rich media, and voice.

As consumers are using more digital channels to learn about products and services, it is imperative to engage site abandoners with the right message, on the right channel, on the right device, at the right time. 

Here are some thoughts on how you can ensure you’re getting the most out of your retargeting program:

  • Audit your pixel placement. It amazes me how few digital marketers have no clue if their retargeting tags are properly deployed across all product/service pages.

  • Reassess your customer journey. Is your website properly guiding potential customers across the finish line?

  • Integrate video to provide site abandoners a compelling reason to return and convert.

  • Negative target audiences that don’t need to be reengaged. For example, you likely don’t want to retarget people looking at your website from your own office. Also, do your clients access a login to use your service via your website? Consider if you should negative target that CRM file.

Retargeting is the highest ROI channel next to email, and it is the foundation of any digital strategy. Once you have implemented a retargeting strategy, or simply given your old strategy a tune-up, you are ready to take retargeting to the next level.

Opportunities abound to optimize your campaign by retargeting visitors to a physical location or past customers in your CRM database… more on those opportunities soon in future blog posts.

If you are ready to review retargeting your strategy or explore implementing a new one, contact Population Science today for a free audit and consultation!

Using Programmatic to Amplify Affiliate Strategies

Using Programmatic to Amplify Affiliate Strategies

Programmatic – March 2, 2020

Programmatic media buying and affiliate have a lot in common. Affiliates are constantly looking to recruit, retain, and optimize high quality publishers and influencers. Programmatic isn’t that much different. It’s all about leveraging data to identify and optimize media placements across a wide array of publishers.

While affiliate and paid media teams are traditionally viewed as completely separate disciplines, there are a lot of synergies where programmatic can be leveraged to amplify affiliate programs. Below we look at Connected TV and Influencer/Publisher Amplification as two immediate opportunities for affiliate marketers to leverage programmatic tactics:

Connected TV:  Connected TV is the most powerful paid media opportunity available to marketers today. It combines the impact of television ads with the precision of digital targeting. Connected TV hits on all of the important metrics that make a successful marketing channel:

  • Reach: Over 80% of internet connected households in the United States stream at least some of their television content.

  • Demographics: All demographics are represented with the average age of a streamer being 42.

  • Impact: Connected TV ads have a 95% completion rate and drives up to 4 times the number of website visits compared to YouTube ads.

At this point you might be thinking “this sounds great, but I can’t afford it.” That couldn’t be further from the truth! Highly targeted CTV campaigns can be done at a small fraction of the cost of a traditional TV buy. There is even good news for advertisers that haven’t invested in a video ad. The cost of video production has fallen substantially during the last decade. Shooting a high quality commercial can be done with just about any budget. Finally, to link everything back to your affiliate program, tracking can be done by creating custom coupon codes in your affiliate platform.

Influencer/Publisher Amplification: Influencer outreach is a booming area in affiliate marketing. Programmatic tactics can reach into the channels that your influencers use such as social media, digital audio, and digital video. Chances are you already advertise on social media. So why shouldn’t you also be in digital audio and video? If it works for the influencers you are partnering with, it will work for you too.

Another interesting fact to consider is that many of the publishers and influencers you currently work with leverage programmatic exchanges to fill ad inventory on their websites and mobile apps. When you know your product or service will be a part of a publisher/influencer post, look for opportunities to place display, native, or even video ads on the publisher website. This can help you reinforce the message and nudge window shoppers into your funnel.

In conclusion, programmatic is not that different than the affiliate channel. Leveraging programmatic tactics and channels with your affiliate program can provide a significant boost to both your affiliate and paid media strategies.