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Aug 26, 2021 - 0 Minutes read

Demand-side platform VS Ad Network - Which one is better?

It used to be more straightforward in the old days when advertisers had to deal with agencies to publish their ads on various platforms. Now with the discovery of programmatic advertising, things have changed drastically for advertisers. They have to learn all the new techniques and navigate through all the latest platforms to publish their ads in the best possible digital space.

It is not uncommon for digital marketers to be forced to adapt to new challenges. The digital marketing landscape is constantly changing, and the survival depends on how quickly they can get familiar with all the latest strategies. The problem is that the advertising industry already has a lot of competition. It is not easy for marketers to get a price advantage when it is so saturated.

New technologies bring with them the possibility to generate more revenues. One new technology that is like a breath of fresh air for digital marketers is programmatic advertising. It has been changing everything for marketers for a while now. The marketers who can adapt quickly get an advantage by implementing excellent new programmatic advertising features in their advertising campaigns.

What is Demand Side Platform?

A demand-side platform or DSP can be defined as a unique platform for advertisers to register and provide their requirements to find digital ad space. After they provide their needs to the DSP, they consider all the technical factors, and with the help of AI and real-time bidding, they negotiate with a supply-side platform.

AI and real-time bidding play a key role in determining the ad space, the price of the ad space, and other essential things. These negotiations and bidding are done through bots within milliseconds, making the process very automated and effortless.

What is an Ad Network?

An ad network is an agency that brokers a deal between the advertisers and the publishers to rent the ad space on behalf of the publisher. The price is often fixed, and there is no negotiation taking place. The ad network works as a middleman between the advertisers and the publishers. 

There are many different kinds of ad networks. Some of them are vertical, while some are horizontal ad networks. Some ad networks are premium which offers some unique platforms to the advertisers to run their ads. The process is not automated in the case of an ad network. It is an older way of doing things, and many advertisers and publishers still use it.

Advantages of DSP over Ad Networks?

There are many differences between an ad network and a demand-side platform. We will discuss the significant differences between them so an advertiser can choose wisely which media they should trust to find their suitable ad space.


Transparency is an essential element when it comes to advertising on digital platforms. Demand-side platforms are very transparent when showing all the data that gives an advertiser the insights that they need to improve their campaigns. With a demand-side platform, the advertisers can see exactly where their money is being spent and how many people click on particular ads. This transparency helps the advertiser a lot in future campaigns and helps to build trust on the demand side platform. 

On the other hand, the ad network provides minimal data to the advertisers. The advertiser only sees very few impressions, and they are not given the data in real-time, making it harder for the advertiser to gather insights. It also becomes harder to trust ad networks because of the lack of transparency.


In the case of programmatic advertising, all the processes are conducted through automation. The demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms are connected through a digital handshake that allows them to decide on a price for renting ad space mutually. It is done through real-time bidding very quickly. Advertisers don’t have to bother about all these complicated processes. 

On the other hand, when it comes to ad networks, the whole process requires a very significant effort from the advertiser. The entire process is very manual. Ad networks take a lot of time to find a suitable match for the advertiser to run their ad campaigns.


The pricing system works a bit differently for both Demand-side platforms and ad networks. While in a demand-side forum, the price is determined based on real-time bidding for each impression. A systematic auction is conducted to determine the cost of each impression in the case of a demand-side platform.

For ad networks, the pricing is fixed from the beginning. The advertisers would know how much they have to pay for each impression and clicks. They pay less for bulk clicks and impressions. CPM, CPC, and CPI are some terms that you would often hear, which help determine the price of the digital space in an ad network.


When it comes to measuring the efficiency of both demand-side platforms and ad networks, there is no doubt that DSPs outperform ad networks in all the essential aspects. They provide more transparency to the advertisers, and also the whole process is more automated.