Data Management Platform: What is a DMP?

If you’re working in digital advertising today and not losing sleep over your data management strategy (or lack thereof), climb out from under your rock and join the rest of us trying to figure out how to leverage the mountain of consumer intent and behavior collecting on the  doorstep each day. From both the marketer and publisher perspective, data isn’t the problem, access is the problem.  Each party has access to vast amounts of data, either directly or through 3rd party channels, but centralizing, organizing, analyzing, and segmenting are very difficult for all but the largest companies.  Unless you have a pedigreed team that speaks SAS and Oracle, understands how to use an IBM supercomputer, or has a team of PhDs on the payroll, building your own solution to this problem just isn’t realistic.  It just doesn’t exist in the DNA of most advertising companies today, at least not yet.

But that doesn’t mean a solution doesn’t exist.  Enter the Data Management Platform, or DMP, a very smart, very fast cookie warehouse with analytical firepower to crunch, de-duplicate, and integrate your data with any technology platform you desire.  Data management platforms are designed to help both marketers and publishers make the data they have actionable, and are the fundamental tool for any data strategy beyond the elementary level.  Pretty much anyone that can set a cookie can do some level of data collection and then repurpose that cookie for an ad campaign, but DMPs offer intelligence that goes beyond just the cookie or even just the data.  They offer technology can can find trends, help you scale and understand your audience, segment and target your audience in complex ways based on user attributes, consumption habits, recency, and more.  At the core, this analysis is what DMPs offer that other cookie-based solutions cannot.

A data management platform might let you understand what your site analytics tool says about users that open your newsletters.  They can let you know how many users that bought a big screen TV also searched for high end digital cameras in the past week. You could even overlay 1st party information with 3rd party sources to tell you what the average buyer’s credit score and household income was. In fact, you could use a DMPs to help you figure out which users are most likely to buy a big screen TV next week.  It all comes down to how much data you can provide the system, and how deep you want to go into the data.

Data Management Platform Companies

Like most aspects of ad tech, this is a crowded space right now, with plenty of companies offering a solution. Demdex (now owned by Adobe), Core Audience, and Krux are what I would consider pure-plays, while Lotame, Collective, and Turn offer similar services but with another (potentially conflicting) core competency.  All have various levels of service and complexity that you’ll have to look at yourself to determine the right way forward for your business. The purpose of this series is to review what DMPs do, how they do it, and key features to look for as you evaluate potential partners.

Read More: Centralize and Synchronize Your User Data


  1. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for your articles. I had a few questions related to Display Marketing please help me to find the answers.

    Que 1: How does data auction works in Data Exchanges (say when DSP wants to buy data)? On what parameters will the bidding take place? Also, If I am right to say that the highest bidder (DSP) gets the data, Why will the data exchange provide data to only 1 DSP rather than sell to all DSPs on a fixed cost basis?

    Que2: You mentioned in your previous posts ( that SSP can behave like Exchange Plus where it can compare the highest bids of RTB against say Fixed bids from Ad-Network. My question is, Why will the Ad-Network participate in the fixed price deal and pay higher rather than participating in RTB?


  2. Hi Shantanu –

    Sure – I’ll try to be of help.

    1. To be honest, I’m less clear on this myself. To my knowledge, only BlueKai works in this way, so you’d really have to ask them for the specifics. Given that every other provider works on a CPM / usage model, I wouldn’t be surprised if BlueKai eventually moves to that setup as well – as a customer, I just wouldn’t want to deal with the headache of bidding in yet another system’s UI. Selling on a usage basis is less complicated from a customer point of view, and as you said, they can sell the same data to multiple customers at once. I wish I could give you more specifics.

    2 .Good question – the simple answer is that many networks don’t have the technology to bid in real time, so fixed price is their only option. it’s not so much that the SSP changes the business model for the networks, as much as it adds a new source of demand for publishers on top of the existing ad network setup. It’s also important to note however that networks typically aren’t paying more than RTB, but provide fill on impressions that the RTB channel may not be able to fill. Some ad networks may have the ability to buy in real time, but because their business model often sits in conflict with the publishers’ and has an incentive to get as much price discovery as possible to bid as low as possible, publishers usually aren’t keen to work with networks on an RTB basis. That may not be the case for all publishers, but it likely is for premium or brand name publishers.

    Hope that helps –


  3. Hi Ben,

    Can you also help me to understand or guide me to some link which explains the total cost flow, from advertiser to the publisher. The $ revenue or the % share that the different entities like DSP, Ad Exchange, SSP make during a bidding process.


  4. You mean a hosted / software solution vs. a cloud solution? Is there a particular reason you’re interested in going this direction?

  5. Hi Ben,

    your are correct. And yes, this is a fair question 🙂 The situation is – high monthly reach within the internet population (est. 60%), huge customer database, very privacy sensible. The hypothesis is that the biggest short time value is related to the connection of CRM data and display/search/social campaigns. To protect the data and to realize the potential within CRM data, a self hosted solution is one option under consideration. Makes sense?

  6. Hi Dirk,

    I see – to my knowledge, no, there are no DMP Software solutions out there. You might look at the solution or integrations that some of the large enterprise data companies have with the existing DMP ecosystem and are in the business of protecting data. Folks like Acxiom and Experian now plan a big role in this space, and are well suited to blind consumer information from behavioral information. They might be able to serve your needs, though it’s still not software on your infrastructure.

    The alternative I suppose would be to build on your own platform, but it’s going to be hugely complex and pretty damn expensive, too. Having been down this road myself, I can tell you it’s quite a difficult path to take. That said, it depends a bit what you want to do – do you want to power personalization within your own experience that you can fully control, do you want to buy media against proprietary segments, something else? If the former, your task is somewhat simplified because you don’t need to move the data around, or get it to work in the RTB space. If however you want to buy media against your own segments, you have to realize that a DMP is just half of the solution. You’ll also need a DSP to sync the data segments into, so you can bid against them on the exchanges.

    My suggestion would be to see if you can find a palatable way to work with a cloud-based DMP in a way that satisfies your privacy policy, either by blinding the PII to that system, demanding dedicated servers for your implementation, or working with a big public company who’s got experience working with sensitive information, and assets that are worth protecting.

    My two cents –

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