If I were to poll everyone at Okanjo, a good bunch wouldn’t be able to fully define the key parts of the digital advertising ecosystem, and Okanjo lives in the midst of this publisher/advertiser world. Even if most of us know what we’re talking about (or at least think we know), a quick little cheat sheet might be helpful. So here you go…

Ad Exchange
An ad exchange aggregates and sells ad real estate (impressions) from a variety of online publishers. Ad exchanges make it easy for buyers to cast a wide net, get a good rate and get collective results.

Bottom Line: Ad exchanges are markets to buy and sell ad impressions.


Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange
One by AOL
OpenX Ad Exchange
Rubicon Project

SSP – Supply Side or Sell Side Platform
An SSP automates the selling of ad impressions for online publishers. This enables online publishers to easily fill their pages with ads that earn revenue. Publishers use SSPs because they maximize revenue by offering the publisher’s ad inventory on a variety of ad exchanges. Typically, SSPs provide a variety of tools and strategies to make selling more efficient.

Bottom Line: SSPs work with publishers to better strategically sell their ad real estate.

Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP)
AppNexus SSP

DSP – Demand-Side Platform
DSPs allow advertisers (think Nike) to bid and place ads on attractive publisher sites. Brands don’t have to go directly to each site. Through a DSP, they can set a budget, set targeting and get wide exposure. DSPs serve ads, manage real-time bidding, and provide tracking and optimizations. Plus, DSPs manage programmatic ad buys and retargeting campaigns.

Bottom Line: DSPs sell ad inventory to media buyers (brands).

Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager
AppNexus DSP

DMP – Data Management Platform
A DMP is in a league of its own—not really a part of the buying and selling of ad impressions. But, DMPs make for smarter buying and selling of ad space. DMPs take all the information that DSPs and SSPs can supply about audiences and make the info useful.

Bottom Line: A DMP collects and interprets data in order to optimize marketing efforts.


RTB – Real-Time Bidding
Real-time bidding is the automated auction system in which publisher ad impressions are sold. Auctions are instant and ongoing. Ad exchanges and SSPs operate RTB systems. RTB is the basis of programmatic advertising, ad exchanges, networks, DSPs, SSPs and the entire ecosystem.  And, right now, everyone is all about programmatic.

Here’s what it all looks like as a system:


We hope this quick guide was helpful. Anything we missed?