12 Top Programmatic Advertising Platforms in 2023
Programmatic advertising is witnessing an impressive growth rate in recent times, and in the United States alone, ad spending has been projected to hit closer to $100 billion in 2022.
On a global scale, programmatic ad spending hit an estimated $129 billion in 2020 and was projected to reach $150 billion in 2021.
Programmatic advertising has a track record of helping marketers reach relevant customers throughout their path to purchase, effectively accelerating conversion and boosting revenue.
Other benefits include reduced ad cost, better optimization, improved ad management, and more.
If you're looking to invest in programmatic advertising, the first thing in your mind would be to determine the best platform to partner with for this purpose. Selecting the right programmatic platform will help you manage your ad investments efficiently.
With that being said, this guide explores 12 of the best programmatic advertising platforms that can help your business achieve more marketing successes in 2022.
We shall compare these platforms based on several criteria, including pricing, ad inventory quality, audience targeting, and anti-fraud/safety measures.
What is Programmatic Advertising
In simple terms, programmatic advertising refers to the use of automated technology in the purchasing of digital ad space. This is a far cry from manual advertising, which heavily depends on interpersonal interaction between publishers and marketers.
Programmatic advertising leverages data insights and complex algorithms to serve adverts to relevant users at the right time, place, and price.
You can watch Improvado's vlog on programmatic advertising to get a better understanding of this concept:
This system of advertising is beneficial because it occurs in real-time, allowing advertisers to bid for ad space more efficiently.
How Programmatic Advertising Works
Here’s how programmatic advertising works in a nutshell:
- A prospect visits a website
- The website owner captures this impression and puts it up for auction, including relevant data about the website visitor (using a Supply-Side Platform—SSP)
- Advertisers bid for this impression (using a Demand-Side Platform—DSP)
- The impression then gets delivered to the highest bidder, whose ad will be shown to the visitor.
These steps might seem like a lot, but the entire four-step process happens in seconds, thanks to the Real-Time Bidding functionality associated with programmatic advertising. The competing bids go through a series of automated calculations and analytics to effectively determine the most cost-effective bid.
Here's a great scheme by Publift that sheds more light on programmatic advertising:
For instance, if the visitor’s data shows that they’re most likely to engage with your ad, your ad network will serve a higher bid for that impression.
Top Programmatic Platforms by Category
Advertisers make use of DSPs to bid for digital ad space, while publishers make use of SSPs for selling their ad spaces.
An ad exchange serves as a marketplace for connecting advertisers and publishers through their respective platforms. A DMP collects all kinds of data related to an advertiser's ideal customer.
Now, let’s explore some of the best programmatic ad platforms in each category.
Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs)
A DSP allows advertisers to bid for ad impressions on publisher websites. It also enables advertisers to filter their target audience based on specific criteria like location, age, past online behavior, gender, and more.
Here are some of the most popular DSPs:
Adobe Advertising Cloud DSP
Adobe Advertising Cloud DSP prides itself as “the only omnichannel DSP that supports connected TV, video, display, native, audio, and search campaigns..”
Mentioned as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Ad Tech, Adobe provides features that help advertisers launch, manage, and optimize campaigns. This includes inventory management, personalized marketing, search management, and more.
Pricing: Custom. Pricing depends on different factors like company size, requirements, and the number of tools purchased
Supported Ad Inventory: Display, video, audio, mobile apps, Digital out of Home (DOOH), TV, native, and social
Audience Targeting: Audience segment, device type, location, browser, and more
Anti-fraud/Safety Measures: Offers page screening for detecting faulty inventory and pre-bid filtering for detecting fraud, suboptimal viewability, and brand violation.
Launched in 2007, MediaMath is recognized as one of the earliest DSPs in the industry. Today, it partners with over 3,500 advertisers to help them run omnichannel campaigns across mobile, display, OTT, native, video, audio, and more.
Its SOURCE ecosystem is designed to help advertisers achieve better supply-path optimization and algorithm decision.
MediaMath is also recognized as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Ad Tech.
Supported Ad Inventory: Connected TV, display, mobile, video, audio, native, and DOOH
Audience Targeting: Audience segment, contextual, first-party data, site list, location, daypart, technology, video, and audio.
Anti-fraud/Safety Measures: Uses its SOURCE ecosystem to ensure supply-chain trust through pre-bid IVT protection and onboarding tools.
AdRoll is loved by its users for its simplicity and the quality of its ad templates. The platform focuses on helping brands expand their reach through video, social ads, display, native, email, and more.
Recognized as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Ad Tech, AdRoll uses a broad spectrum of data to determine where and when to deliver ads to prospects.
Price: Offers a free package for starters as well as a custom pricing package for enterprises
Supported Ad Inventory: Video, social ads, display, native, and email
Audience Targeting: Contextual, lookalike, demographic, interest, lookalike, and CRM targeting
Anti-fraud/Safety Measures: Has a Trust and Safety Team for automatically and manually filtering invalid traffic
Supply Side Platform (SSP)
An SSP focuses on helping publishers (website owners) sell ad space on their apps, websites, and other digital properties.
These platforms use automation to determine the optimal price for each ad space and sell to the best bidder. SSPs work with ad networks to connect publishers to a broader pool of advertisers.
Let’s take a look at a few of the leading SSPs in the industry.
PubMatic offers services for both media buyers and publishers. As an SSP, it provides an impressive collection of tools to help publishers optimize the monetization potential of all their digital assets.
This includes tools for header bidding, RTB advertising, Private Marketplaces (PMP), and ad quality.
Supported Ad Inventory: CTV, OTT, display, video, addressable, mobile, native, and more
Anti-fraud/Safety Measures for Publishers: Uses real-time scanning and strategic partnerships to safeguard publisher’s audiences across ad formats, channels, and screens
Google Ad Manager
Programmatic publishers utilize an average of 6 SSPs to sell ad space to advertisers. Despite this, Google remains the most popular SSP among publishers, claiming 51% of the industry’s market share.
In fact, 75% of ad impressions in the US come from Google Ad Manager. More insights in the Twitter thread below.
Google Ad Manager exists for large publishers with significant direct sales. Some of the tools it offers include server-side header bidding, managed PMPs, advanced dashboard and reporting system, and more.
Supported Ad Inventory: Video, mobile, display, and native.
Anti-fraud/Safety Measures for Publishers: Google supports popular safety standards, initiatives, and protocols such as the IAB ads.txt standard, SafeFrame, and HTTPS to protect against unsuitable ads and invalid activity
Criteo offers a retail media service to help publishers monetize their site content by leveraging first-party data and audiences.
Unlike Google Ads Manager, Criteo makes its services available to publishers with lower traffic numbers. As an SSP, Criteo focuses more on retargeting.
More info in the thread below:
Supported Ad Inventory: Social media, video, display, web, and mobile
Anti-fraud/Safety Measures for Publishers: Criteo uses advanced image recognition technology to filter unsafe content from publishers’ digital properties
Ad Exchanges position themselves as the intermediary between advertisers and publishers.
Publishers come to ad exchanges to submit ad impressions which are then presented to advertisers for bidding in real-time.
Here are some of the best ad exchanges in the industry.
Originally called AppNexus, Xandr is a leading advertising platform offering a full stack of programmatic advertising services. This means it provides services, such as a DSP, SSP, and an Ad Exchange.
As an Ad Exchange, Xandr serves over 11.4 billion ad impressions daily.
One of its most notable features is its header bidding wrapper, which makes header bidding more convenient and efficient for publishers. The platform supports different ad inventory, including video, banner, audio, native, and more.
Xander partners with White Ops, an MRC-accredited company, for ensuring brand safety across its marketplace.
SmartyAds provides a white-label ad exchange platform, Smart Hub, which has recorded over 25,000 publishers and 2 billion impressions daily.
It also serves as a full-stack programmatic ad tech platform, offering services as a DSP and SSP to both advertisers and publishers. The platform is compatible with a wide range of traffic types and ad formats, including video, banner, audio, native, push, pop, and more.
Compared to Xandr, SmartyAds offers a more comprehensive collection of security and anti-fraud features and partnerships to make the marketplace safer for publishers and advertisers.
PubMatic makes a second appearance in this guide, thanks to its incredible capabilities as a full-stack ad tech platform.
As an ad exchange, PubMatic has established itself as an industry leader with over 171 billion ad impressions per day. Publishers benefit from its ease-of-use, DMP integrations, and open-source header bidding.
On the advertisers' side, PubMatic offers integration with various security tools to prevent fraudulent practices and ensure brand safety.
Data Management Platforms (DMPs)
DMPs are less talked about in ad tech. But they're equally as important. Advertisers use all kinds of data when developing a campaign strategy to ensure their ads are relevant to their prospects.
DSPs automatically place bids for ad spaces in the marketplace, but to ensure that the purchased ads are aimed at the right demographic, these platforms take advantage of data supplied by DMPs. Publishers, on the other hand, use DMPs to store and analyze user data to get a better understanding of their website visitors.
Here are some of the most popular DMPs in the industry.
Audience Studio by Salesforce
Salesforce is widely known for its CRM system. However, the company also offers a Data Management Platform for advertisers.
Formerly known as Salesforce DMP, Audience Studio allows advertisers to capture data from any source and segment this data using machine learning algorithms. It also offers a native consent management framework to help advertisers maintain transparency and trust with their customers.
Lotame is an industry-leading DMP that offers a wide range of services, including audience management, data marketplace, and identity resolution.
It allows its users to access first-party data from sources like emails, CRMs, social media, apps, and more. It also provides the opportunity to expand on available data through its data marketplace.
Lotame’s DMP, however, lacks live reporting features and loads relatively slowly.
Alongside a DSP, theTradeDesk offers a DMP to help advertisers and publishers collect, manage, and activate their data in one place.
One of its most popular features is its lookalike modeling which allows you to discover new audiences based on insights from your existing audiences. It also offers a data marketplace where users can access high-quality audiences from data providers.
TheTradeDesk is actively expanding in the DMP sector. For example, TikTok and theTradeDesk launched a partnership not long ago. This collaboration will drive more brands to the platform and stimulate the growth of advertising on TikTok.
The internet is a vast space, teeming with hundreds of millions of user data every day. Advertisers and publishers have access to a large chunk of this data from an ever-increasing list of sources. Top-performing brands are recognized for their ability to make effective decisions with the data at their disposal.
Improvado has been on the scene since 2015, helping top-performing brands to make better data-driven decisions by uniting data from multiple sources into a single, digestible view.
Improvado supports a wide range of DSPs, SSPs, and DMPs, helping advertisers and publishers to optimize and accurately measure the efficacy of their campaigns.
If you would like to know how Improvado can help your business grow through improved reporting, feel free to chat with an expert from our team.