Amazon Sponsored Display Ads vs. Amazon DSP

What’s the difference? How should your brand use both effectively to grow your business?

The first thing to cover is the definitions of both options. Something Amazon loves to do is title their advertising options as confusingly as possible. So, what is a Sponsored Display Ad you ask? This is an advertising option used to reach relevant audiences both on and off Amazon. With 3 targeting options to choose from (views targeting, product targeting, and interest targeting), Sponsored Display allows advertisers a quick and easy way to target shoppers with display advertising. The only requirement to create one is that you are the brand owner of your product (through Brand Registry). Amazon DSP on the other hand, stands for Demand Side Platform (Amazon’s tool for managing programmatic advertising). DSP can only be used via Amazon’s managed services (with $35k+ minimum ad spend budgets), or through an agency like Pitted Labs (without hefty minimum ad budgets). DSP advertising is serviced through a separate portal from the rest of your Amazon PPC campaigns. You really need someone with experience to run successful DSP campaigns!

I know we’re taking a look at the differences, but let’s first talk about the similarities. Both options allow you to reach audiences outside of and they let your products be shown outside of search results or product pages. Those are pretty much the only similarities. But like most things in life, advertising is all about control. The DSP option gives you very granular control over your campaigns while Sponsored Display Ads (SDA) just get the job done. If DSP is a banana split with all your favorite toppings, then SDA are a scoop of vanilla ice cream you wish you had 10 minutes ago before half of it melted. But, half melted ice cream is better than no ice cream at all! Let’s take a deeper look at both with more detail.

Sponsored Display Ads

Why does this exist in both Vendor and Seller Central? (check out our blog post on each platform and how to utilize them). It opens up different advertising slots than sponsored brands or sponsored products campaigns. Another benefit is the ability to target “audiences”, instead of keywords or products (but you can still just sponsor products here). Audiences are possibly the most valuable way to target customers, as you can surface your products to them multiple times. Ever considered buying a mountain bike?  Most of us spend time googling them, research, browse different models for sale, and then for the next week all you see are mountain bike ads everywhere you look/scroll/read? That’s audience targeting, and maybe you’ve even bought something due to it before.

How do you set this campaign up? It’s very simple! Like other campaign options, you have to fill out some basics, like campaign name, run dates, and budget. Then, choose if you want to target products or audiences (for audiences, skip to the next paragraph). If you choose product targeting, you’ll have to do slightly more work. First choose your products to advertise, how much you want to bid per click, and choose what categories or products to target. That’s it, you’re done!

If you want to target audiences, it’s even easier. It should be noted though that only audiences show up outside of, so if you want to utilize both locations, you’ll have to create two campaigns. After you choose audiences, you just have to choose what products to advertise and how much to bid per-click. No need to choose anything to target, as the campaign will automatically target customers who view your products.

Well that seemed easy, so what’s the point of using DSP? Read on:

DSP (Demand-Side Platform)

Remember how I just introduced audiences as “possibly the most valuable way to target customers”? That is true, but the key is finding the right audience. Maybe when you searched for mountain bikes, you got an ad that day for the bike you wanted at a really good price, and you bought it. Great! But maybe you’re not quite ready to buy, and now the ads are just annoying. DSP gives you the ability to manipulate audiences to target exactly who you want to. That way, you can maximize every penny in your budget. Since Amazon DSP is only accessible through Amazon-managed services or agencies with their own direct access, there’s no need for step by step instructions (but if you’re interested, reach out to us at Pitted Labs about our DSP access!).

There are two main benefits to DSP: Customizing your audience and customizing your creatives. Unlike the self-service portals, DSP allows you to customize what customers see (aka, the “creative”). It could be an ad calling out the great reviews your product has, an ad showcasing a promotion you’re running, or even a custom image (as long as it fits within style guidelines). It also allows you choose the size of your creatives, and track them based on metrics. This means you can see how your 300×600 placement performs against the 320×50 banner. You can choose what creatives are included in each campaign, giving you more control over your ad efficiency.

The other benefit, audiences, isn’t even comparable. Want to target customers who looked at your detail page? In the last 60 days? Yes, you can do that. But, what if they purchased your product already? You can exclude customers who have purchased your product in the last 30 days. What if you’re selling toilet paper and customers will run out? We can create an audience that purchased your toilet paper in the last 75 days, but exclude the customers who have purchased it in the last 27 days, no problem! What if they’ve just looked at your product in the last 8 days? Make sure they remember to check out! This makes DSP a powerful tool to retarget customers and drive brand loyalty. Also, you can retarget potential customers to impact their purchase decision.

You can also create audiences based on product categories, competitors’ products they’ve viewed, demographic data, location, and proprietary Amazon data. For example, do they listen to Amazon Music? Have they viewed certain Amazon Prime videos? All of these tools help you focus on awareness by getting as many impressions as possible. This brings up another difference in DSP and SDA, which is billing. SDA are pay per click model, where DSP charges for impressions. This makes DSP a very affordable and efficient way to spread awareness about your product.

Hopefully this gave you more context to the different advertising options available! As always, a hybrid approach works best with Amazon advertising. An effective advertising strategy uses all advertising levers to drive as much value as possible for your brand. If you’re interested in learning more about DSP, reach out to us today to speak with one of our advertising experts!


Ryan Forsythe

With hands-on experience working at Amazon, Ryan has done it all -- launching new products, running search campaigns, onboarding new brands, and growing multi-million dollar accounts. Ryan also has a passion for data and uncovering trends that impact your business. His experience will help take your business to the next level!