How to Choose the Best DSP for Your Native Ad Campaigns

How to Choose the Best DSP for Your Programmatic Native Advertising

In today’s post, we’ll list down all the factors to consider when checking the offerings of all top DSP native advertising platforms selling native traffic. Before we get there, let’s start with some theory.

Digital advertisers can buy traffic either directly from specific ad exchanges or use a Demand-Side Platform (DSP). Obviously, they can also do both and this is what many experienced buyers prefer to do. The beauty of any self-serve native DSP is the fact that media buyers can get access to traffic from multiple native ad networks using a single programmatic native ad platform. To put it simply, they are able to steer their whole media buying and digital advertising process from one single interface. 

Differences Between Top Demand-Side Platforms

Many DSPs, including mobile ones, market their inventory (traffic) as the best on the market. But the truth is that differences between them are usually minimal. Apart from the ad inventory itself, DSPs emphasize their targeting capabilities, digital programmatic advertising technology, tracking solutions, machine learning, and optimization features (eg. dynamic creative optimization). This list can go on and on, but let’s take a closer look at the most standard characteristics.

  • Advertising Inventory and Reach
  • Transparency
  • Demand-Side Platform Targeting Options
  • Tracking and Optimization
  • Onboarding Materials, Tech Support and Easy-to-Navigate Panel
  • Cost and Business Model

DSP versus Mobile DSP

A demand-side platform (DSP) is a digital advertising platform used by many advertisers for a smooth and easy campaign performance management of targeted traffic flows to their ads. A ready self-serve software, if you will. The inventory is bought on CPM basis (cost per thousand impressions).

A mobile DSP – the same platform but designed specifically for in-app traffic (mobile ad inventory) as well as meaningful engagements with customers – is the latest thing. You can read more about DSP technology in our previous blog post.

So what’s the fuss about mobile DSPs? According to Statista, “95 percent of respondents used a smartphone in last days, and only one percent of respondents used the device longer than three months ago”.

Mobile devices are going to rule the world – that’s for sure!

Now let’s get down to the offerings of all native advertising DSPs.

Advertising Inventory and Reach

As we already mentioned in our blog post, native ad units come in different shapes and sizes like in-feed, in-article, promoted listing, and content recommendations. Depending on their Publishers, some DSPs sell only a certain type of native ads.

Most native advertising DSPs offer global traffic from T1, T2, and T3 countries. Along with native, DSPs also have other types of ad formats to sell, such as video, mobile, social, audio, connected TV, search, and display. The biggest DSPs like MediaMath, TTD (theTradeDesk), and AdForm have integrations with multiple inventory sources spanning all countries, channels, devices.

The quality itself also differs among demand-side platforms. Some DSPs offer premium ad inventory – great software solution for agencies, while others are more affiliate-friendly.

If you are looking to run more aggressive, cross-channel ad campaigns, smaller DPSs offering a smart advertising software might be a better fit for you. Simply because they can specialize in less brand-safety advertising inventory like gaming, or nutra-specific inventory. Big premium Publishers often restrict ad categories like nutrition and gaming along with dating, trading, and gambling.


In a perfect world, a native demand-side platform should promote transparent programmatic advertising to help advertisers to make meaningful native advertising decisions. So make sure that the DSP platform you choose gives you full control over the ad placements you buy like bundle IDs, widget IDs, ad space ID or publisher’s name and most important key performance indicators. 

This will help you understand if the selected ad exchange is of good quality and if the traffic you’ll be exposed to is not fraudulent. Ideally, you should be able to get some insights on the target audiences, ad inventory and the expected volumes before you open or fund your account.

You should have an open dialogue with potential partners about how they combat fraud, ensure viewability, and whether or not they’re amenable towards certain anti-fraud incentives in your agreement, like minimum click-to-install time.

suggests Liftoff, a mobile app marketing platform

Demand-Side Platform Targeting

Let’s be honest – the better targeting, the better results – and it’s not only the case of native ads. It applies to online advertising and real-time media buying in general.

What matters in native, especially for performance-oriented campaigns, is the target audience. Check if your preferred native DSP offers any kind of audience targeting options. Why? Because, as Google mentions, “audience targeting capabilities allow you to reach people based on who they are, their interests and habits, what they’re actively researching, or how they have interacted with your business”.

If the platform allows granular targeting where you can frame your target audience, this will surely be the right DSP for you!

Also, some leading DSPs allow demographic targeting which can be crucial if you are looking to build your brand awareness within a specific age range or gender.

The below are the basics of the basics. If you are not able to target with these dimensions using a demand-side platform, then you’ll be better off without such a DSP.

  • geo-location
  • OS and OS version
  • browser and browser version
  • device type and device model
  • placement name/ID
  • carrier
  • time of day
  • day of week
  • frequency capping

Real – Time Tracking and Analytics

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. A native campaign in any DSP needs to be tracked and optimized. Remember that demand-side platforms enable buying ad impressions in real-time (real-time bidding) so DPSs need to make sure the stats are there for you in the dashboard and fast. Like instantly!

It doesn’t matter if you are looking for brand awareness performance, cross-device or geo targeting. You always need to keep an eye on your campaign results.

The more you can track, the more you can optimize. If you are buying native ads programmatically using a native DSP, you already know that it all starts with ad impressions. Without a proper report showing your impression click-through rate, you’re basically stuck. So make sure you’re choosing the right DSP that will provide you with a decent analytics package.  

What to Pay Attention to?

When running native, your campaign funnel will most probably be more complex than just: 

click on the native ad ⇨ redirection to the offer page

You might want to test different landing pages and a few offer pages to identify the winning ones. You need to be able to track impressions, visits, clicks and conversions – whether these are leads, signups, installs, purchases, upsells or new customers across devices. 

If a DSP allows you to track these events within numerous reports – for example ad copy / OS / Browser / Site domain / App / Placement ID reports – that’s all the more reason why you should stick to such a DSP. Literally, you can steer your whole digital media buying from one single place. You can buy, track, optimize and REPEAT ☺

Sometimes, it can also be confusing. If you are not sure how to use the analytics and what data is important, all your marketing efforts can go wrong. This leads to our next point, so keep on reading!

Demand-Side Platform Starter Pack

As I just mentioned, without a clear picture of your native ad campaigns performance, you will never be able to scale your media buying. But before you can even think of scaling, you need to get fully onboard. There are the three lifesavers:

  1. Onboarding Materials – a team of native ad experts has prepared some easily accessible onboarding materials to help you get through your first steps on our platform.
  2. Tech Support – a team of tech wizards oriented towards your success as a new customer. Always happy to help you with the ad campaign setup and integrations.
  3. Easy-to-Navigate Panel – you can call it whatever you like – ease of use or fast navigation – it’s all about you being able to take action quickly. If you don’t know how a car works, you will not drive a mile. 

Cost and Business Model

DSPs can take an entrance fee or a margin. Most typically, your margin will be included in your bid price, so you’re only charged for the traffic you buy. Selected native DSPs can also require you to declare your minimum monthly spend before they let you in.

Depending on a native DSP, you can buy on various business models – either CPM, CPC, CPA or CPI. When choosing a pricing model, first analyze your product, the target audience and then try to decide what will work best for your native campaign.

With a CPM, you have more flexibility and you can be sure that a good creative set with higher iCTR won’t turn negative ROI, like in the case of a CPC model. Yet buying on the CPM can take longer to see your desired CPA results. 

Basically, your choice of the pricing model depends on your goals:

  • If you’re not ready to get charged with no guarantee of sales = Choose CPA.
  • If you’re looking for impression scalability and ROI = Choose CPM.
  • If you want to encourage your target audience to download a mobile app =  Choose CPI.

To be Continued…

In the next part of our article, we’ll move on to comparing Voluum DSP to other self-serve media-buying platforms and we’ll take a closer look at its characteristics. So, stay tuned! You’re one step away from finding the right platform for your native ad campaigns!

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