Demand-side platforms (DSPs) are defined and confined by the acronym’s connotations. In 2007, when DSPs emerged, they coincided with the growth of real-time bidding, a practice since revealed to be rife with data leakage and brand safety concerns. At the time, DSPs met advertisers’ needs by connecting them to exchanges where publishers’ (mostly) desktop display inventory was traded via open auctions.

As the market matured in the 2010s, Forrester evaluated the likes of AOL, AppNexus, AudienceScience, dataxu, MediaMath, RocketFuel, and Turn, none of which remains in business. Yet, according to Forrester’s Q1 2023 B2C Marketing CMO Pulse Survey, 78% of US B2C marketing leaders say their teams use two or more DSPs. Despite their past connotations and data deprecation’s threats to them, DSPs remain staples of brands’ and agencies’ AdTech stacks.

Today, DSPs continue enabling advertisers to manage various audiences, channels, and publishers holistically, automate tedious tasks, and optimize media in real time. And the DSP acronym flexes to encompass commerce media, cross-channel video advertising, identity resolution, and other functionalities that were unknown when DSPs emerged. Forrester, in turn, has tuned its definition of DSPs to:

Technologies that empower marketers to plan, buy, and optimize media across a variety of online and offline channels. 

To adapt to disruptions in the market, DSPs are shifting focus to unique, direct access to signals of consumers’ intent and durable identity solutions rather than the universal addressability and cookie-based identity of yore. They are competing on the strength of signals that they offer, continuing to promise people-based marketing while stressing the actionability of proprietary audience insights gleaned from owned and operated inventory. DSP customers we interviewed validated that a platform’s quality of audience insights and the richness of its reporting are the top two factors influencing DSP selection. To mitigate signal loss, DSPs are investing in various identity solutions, ranging from patented, persistent IDs to “ID-agnostic” approaches. And, to minimize customers’ time to value, DSPs continue investing in user experiences that harness AI to enhance decision-making without excessively limiting advertisers’ transparency or control.

Announcing The Forrester Wave™: Omnichannel Demand-Side Platforms, Q3 2023 

To help you navigate the resilient and evolving DSP market, The Forrester Wave™: Omnichannel Demand-Side Platforms, Q3 2023 is now live. It identifies the 12 most significant DSP vendors — Adform, Adobe, Amazon, Amobee, Basis Technologies, Criteo, Google, Mediaocean, Microsoft, The Trade Desk, Viant Technology, and Yahoo — and scores them on 28 criteria. Use this report to identify the DSP capabilities that matter most to you, including centralizing your media’s management to lift performance and productivity, mapping and sequencing advertising exposures to buyers’ journeys, and more.

Stay tuned for a follow-up report later this year on the future of performance marketing and for a complementary report in the first half of next year about data deprecation’s impact on adtech budgets. 

If you want a broader view of the DSP market, The Omnichannel Demand-Side Platforms Landscape, Q2 2023 features 32 vendors.

As always, schedule an inquiry or guidance session if you want to discuss our research in depth.