Which Programmatic Platform Is Right For Your Business?

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A closer look at Google Display Network and Demand-Side Platforms

Programmatic advertising, which can include banners, video, and audio, among other ad formats, can be a confusing space for any marketer to navigate. Often, identifying how media placements will be purchased can be much more difficult than deciding which media to purchase. An often-misunderstood distinction related to programmatic display is the difference between a demand-side platform (DSP) and Google Display Network (GDN).

What is a Demand-Side Platform?

A demand-side platform (DSP) is a tool that allows a media buyer to target users across multiple ad exchanges and private deals using nearly any ad format available online, including standard banners, video, audio, native, and more. The buyer can also utilize third-party data providers to target users in real time based on their browsing behavior (for example, targeting “car enthusiasts” after they visit caranddriver.com). Although each DSP operates slightly differently, all DSPs are essentially commodities that provide access to ad exchanges and the ability to target users based on a wide range of tactics and data sets.

What is the Google Display Network?

Google Display Network (GDN) is a demand-side platform within Google’s free-to-use Google Ads. It allows a media buyer to target users across the millions of sites that are a part of Google’s “display network” and enjoy a high level of integration with Google’s analytics platform, Google Analytics.

GDN offers a straightforward interface with basic targeting options. It is an excellent fit for advertisers whose budgets are too small for an outside display vendor, or who are already using Google Ads for paid search and are looking to quickly and easily deploy display ads in addition to their existing online marketing efforts.

How is a Demand-Side Platform Different From Google Display Network?

Although Google Display Network is technically a type of demand-side platform, it is very limited in terms of functionality compared to a true DSP. Google actually has their own full-featured DSP known as “Display and Video 360,” which provides much more robust targeting and reporting capabilities.

There are a couple of key features that make a DSP desirable for marketers:

1. Ability to absorb and target users based on third party data sources. By integrating directly with providers such as Blue Kai, Dstillery, and Exelate, a DSP has the ability to target tens of thousands of audiences that contain actual users based on their web behavior.

2. Ability to reach users across all online advertising exchanges, not just Google’s network of sites. While Google’s network of sites is relatively large, a DSP allows you to essentially reach any user anywhere on the internet where online advertising is being served. This can be extremely important when it comes to reaching a niche audience or on awareness campaigns where you don’t want to be limited to only users on Google’s network.

3. More granular targeting and reporting capabilities. A DSP has hundreds of targeting parameters as well as the ability to apply third-party brand safety, page quality, and viewability filters to ensure that each impression is served to an appropriate user in a high quality, brand safe environment.

4. Ability to serve many different creative types including banner, video, audio, native, and more. GDN is limited to standard ad units that cannot utilize any third-party ad servers, while a DSP can incorporate almost any ad format that can be run programmatically. This includes video, audio, native, and standard banners.

What to Know When Deciding Between Google Display Network and a Demand-Side Platform

Google Display Network can be a convenient and effective solution for simple banner campaigns. However, a true demand-side platform can provide targeting capabilities and user reach far beyond the capacity of GDN.

So what’s right for your business?

  1. Start with your business goals, and then assess your resources at hand.
  2. If you have a small media budget or are simply looking to tack on traditional display to your existing paid search budget, GDN can provide an excellent, easy to start method of reaching users via display banners.
  3. If you have a medium to large media budget, taking advantage of the customizations and granular targeting that a DSP offers can help ensure the highest return on your advertising investment.

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