The way people communicate is constantly changing. In 2016, mobile internet use surpassed desktop internet use for the first time. According to StatCounter, an independent web analytics company, 51.3 % of the global internet traffic originated from mobile and tablet users, while only 48.7 % of traffic came from desktops. This report showed that the number of people using computers or laptops is falling, and the industry is rapidly moving toward highly personalized computing devices called smartphones.

These numbers prove that the smartphone is not just an ordinary device to receive messages and calls but a convenient way to access the web and receive information in real-time. Modern consumers prefer to use smartphones because they are pocket-sized, all-in-one solutions that provide instant internet access and the ability to be in contact with friends and family.

Whatever the advantages are, one thing is clear: People love smartphones — which is good news for marketers because now you know where your consumers are. But how do you reach them?

Because users shift screens and devices, the mobile ecosystem is incredibly saturated and terribly fragmented. Many digital advertisers and media buyers want to reach their mobile target audiences but have no clue how to do it. The answer is through mobile demand-side platforms (DSPs).

Intro to Mobile Advertising

Today, marketers have multiple strategies to quick-start with mobile advertising. App-based campaigns, in-game mobile ads, QR codes, location-based marketing, and mobile search engine ads are just a few examples.

Programmatic technology lies at the very core of any mobile marketing strategy. Automation of the processes and streamlining of operations are crucial to the fast and multidimensional mobile ecosystem. Programmatic solutions effectively address these challenges, allowing marketers to target consumers based on various categories, reaching them across devices and platforms, ensuring the delivery of highly personalized messages in real-time.

With the unlimited capabilities of programmatic advertising (read here about things you need to know about programmatic), marketers can hit mobile audiences with relevant, timely and interactive ads in various formats. Mobile ad types include banner, native, video, interstitial, rich media, text and more, giving a lot of choices not only to advertisers but also to app developers and app publishers. Mobile campaigns can be launched for smartphones, tablets, and wearables such as smartwatches.

Algorithms use big data to analyze and segment audiences, a spot which devices they use and track online behavior. Machines’ abilities surpass human skills in direct sales, making the process of buying and selling mobile ads fast and cost-effective.

What Is Mobile Demand-side Platform?

A mobile DSP is not a standalone entity but an independent part of any robust demand-side platform. Just because the mobile ecosystem is different from the desktop environment doesn’t mean that it requires a separate platform for programmatic buying. In an already fragmented digital advertising world, the split between mobile and desktop would cause even more confusion. For this reason, the mobile DSP is deeply integrated within the already-existing solution for the demand side. Thus, when people say “mobile DSP,” they are actually referring to the part of the typical demand-side platform that is responsible for buying mobile inventory.

Mobile DSP is a software platform used by mobile media buyers to purchase mobile advertising space. It allows managing multiple supply-side platforms, ad exchanges, and ad network accounts through one mediated interface. Mobile DSPs are used for buying mobile impressions through real-time bidding auctions (read on about why marketers should care about Real-time Bidding), but this is not always the case. Advertisers may choose to buy mobile inventory through private marketplaces, direct deals, programmatic direct or automated guaranteed.

Mobile DSPs are plugged into mobile ad exchanges, where app publishers and app developers offer available mobile and tablet impressions. When the mobile impression appears in the system, DSPs analyze it and bid on it in case it carries value to the advertiser. If the bid is accepted, the ad creative will be served in the downloaded, opened or initialized mobile application or on the mobile web.

Mobile media buyers can bulk buy remnant inventory through blind ad networks at lower prices or bid on a per-impression basis and track where the ad will be served, ensuring more transparency and higher-quality traffic.

Features to Consider When Choosing the Right Mobile DSP

Advanced Technology

Mobile DSPs are required to handle processes across browsers, operating systems, apps, devices, and locations. Such streams of data coming from multiple sources demand powerful architecture. Ask your mobile DSP vendor whether its platform can accommodate massive amounts of data. Make sure that the mobile DSP can execute multiple advertising campaigns simultaneously, plug into multiple exchanges and networks, and reflect information in real-time on your interface.


Because reaching the right audiences is so crucial in mobile advertising, many mobile DSPs use integrated first- and third-party data that segments audiences and builds even better algorithms for more powerful targeting on mobile.

Standard targeting for mobile includes:


  • Contextual
  • Demographic
  • Geolocation
  • Mobile carrier
  • Operating system
  • Mobile device attributes
  • In-app and mobile web targeting

Advanced mobile DSPs enable GPS targeting (read here about the future of mobile ads) according to specific coordinates, precise Wi-Fi or IPs targeting, retargeting, dayparting, and targeting specific categories, such as travel or gaming applications. In mobile advertising, targeting is king, so be especially aware of the exact targeting capabilities a mobile DSP offers.

Diverse Inventory

It is important that the mobile DSP you chose supports various ad formats that allow experimenting with user engagement, including:

Moreover, pay attention to the innovative ad formats that allow users to interact with the ad and perform actions such as touching, swiping, expanding and animating the creative. To serve such high-resolution ads, the mobile DSP must incorporate in-built modular units that support an upgraded SDK architecture. Consider advertising through mobile-optimized websites, mobile search, social media for mobile, branded applications, sponsored links, static mobile display (banner ads), SMS and messaging in-feed advertising, barcodes, and downloadable coupons.

Buying Models

Choose the buying model that fits your campaign objectives. The most common models for mobile advertising campaigns include:

  • CPM (cost per mille)
  • CPC (cost per click)
  • CPI (cost per install)
  • CPA (cost per action)
  • CPV (cost per view)

Read more about performance-based metrics.

Type of Mobile DSP

Do you want to manage your campaign by yourself, or do you need assistance? Mobile advertisers may choose self-serve mobile DSPs and customize targeting, campaign settings, budgeting, and bidding options independently. Or they may opt for managed mobile DSPs and have an assigned account manager who advises on the campaign and helps optimize it in the long run.

Ask your DSP provider about the fees connected to the managed DSP services and if you can switch from one type of service to another in the future.

Brand Safety

It is absolutely imperative that your mobile DSP vendor ensures high-quality traffic and provides multi-layered anti-fraud scanning software and fake click detection mechanisms. Ask about viewability metrics that allow tracking the number of impressions that were seen by real users.


Tracking your campaign performance is important because data provide you with in-depth insights into how users engage with your ads. Ensure that the mobile DSP provides frequently updated reports that can be easily exported in granular forms. Knowing what works and what doesn’t can help you further optimize an advertising campaign, minimize budget waste and maximize return on investment.


Now you have an idea of what the mobile DSP is and what features it must support to enable effective programmatic ad buying in the mobile ecosystem. Media buyers and brands cannot afford to neglect the growing opportunities presented by mobile advertising. It’s time to choose your mobile DSP.

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Written by
Irina Kovalenko, CMO of SmartyAds
February 2018