GDN or DSP: How to decide

Marketers have lots of choices when it comes to display media; however, the primary choice for many people who are engaged in search engine marketing and looking to increase display reach is the GDN (Google Display Network). But there are pros and cons of using the GDN instead of employing a DSP (demand-side platform), and the best decision is often not obvious.

If you’re running Google AdWords (and face it, most marketers are), there may come a time when you need to move beyond search to display advertising. Here are the primary factors to consider when choosing GDN, a DSP or both.

GND vs. DSP: Pros and cons

• Budget: If you aren’t spending over $5K a month, the reasons to consider a DSP are less compelling because you probably can get all the reach, targeting and ad diversity you need from within the GDN.

• Existing banner creative and an ability to create new messaging regularly: Custom ads cost money to create. The GDN and some DSPs facilitate dynamic ad creation within their ad servers using templates. In addition, some DSPs integrate with a DCO (dynamic creative optimization) platform such as Flashtalking or Spongecell to allow for creative to be dynamically created from feeds or other data sources. Google’s GDN serves text-centric ads using your AdWords account data and ad groups, but it also has a responsive ad creation tool for the GDN. You can include images, and while it’s not fancy, it can be effective.

• Unified reporting: When you stay within the Google technology stack, centralized reporting is much easier to implement and manage.

• Ease of use: The GDN looks and feels almost like AdWords, making it easier for agency or in-house staff to use it without additional training.

• Budget fluidity: If budgets are being moved around based on results or changes in target KPIs, it’s often easier to do so within one platform.

• Reach: While GDN has good reach (2 million sites that Google claims represent 90 percent of people using the internet), DSPs now have that reach plus more — so if you’re doing retargeting or need to reach a niche audience, a DSP can often find more of the audience you’re looking for. DSPs have inventory from AdX (the DoubleClick Ad Exchange) plus other exchanges/SSPs (supply-side platforms) such as PulsePoint, OpenX, AppNexus, Sonobi, Rubicon, PubMatic and others.

In addition, there’s an option of doing PMP (programmatic private marketplace) where there is a direct publisher-to-advertiser relationship and programmatic direct (programmatic direct is direct sold, guaranteed inventory) with specific publishers. (The GDN also lets you select by publisher, mimicking a programmatic PMP deal.)

• CPC vs. CPM pricing preferences: The GDN gives you a choice as to how to pay. But even though you will be invoiced on a CPC (cost-per-click) basis, the yield management algorithms inside the GDN are calculating an effective predictive CPM when deciding where, and how often, to serve your ad.

Nearly all inventory purchased through DSPs is made available for real-time bidding on a CPM exchange, including Google and others.

• Data partnerships: Google gives you access to many audience types, including retargeted audiences and demographic, contextual and interest-based targeting.

Similarly, DSPs often have data partnerships with a broad set of partners and can facilitate the use of that data not only for targeting but also to influence the bids on inventory/impressions. (DSPs have inventory from AdX — plus other exchanges, including AppNexus, Rubicon and Pubmatic — along with PMP partnerships and programmatic direct).

• Integration with a DMP (data management provider). Data is a byproduct of programmatic media and marketing in general. Larger marketers use DMPs to collect, unify and activate data. This allows them to identify and target the right audiences.

DMPs can also be used in conjunction with a DCO platform to personalize ads to segments of the audience. This personalization can even be based on recent experiences or engagements you’ve had with visitors.

Some advertisers and agencies use a DSP and GDN at the same time, but one must be cautious when doing this. If you base your bids on the same audience, the result may be that you’ll end up bidding against yourself because inventory in AdX (in particular) is bid on by your DSP and Google’s GDN simultaneously.

If you do need to use both your DSP and GDN to accomplish your marketing objectives, make sure you use different ad creative and perhaps a different landing page user experience.

About The Author

Kevin Lee
Kevin Lee is Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Didit a leading digital marketing and technology firm started in 1996. Didit has made 11 acquisitions to transform itself into a one-stop-shop full-service marketing firm from a SEM/SEO boutique. Kevin continues to invent new technology platforms for Didit and for clients. Kevin also co-founded generating over $8 million for nonprofits via cause-marketing. As a true Digital Marketing pioneer, Kevin gives back to the industry via 4 books, speaking engagements, and 780+ published columns. Kevin received his MBA from Yale University and lives in Scarsdale with his wife Dr Allison Kahner and two kids.