Real-Time Bidding

A Deep Dive into RTB Systems and Its Impact on Online Advertising

By Christopher Robison
December 10, 2017

Real-Time Bidding (RTB) has revolutionized the online advertising landscape, making it more efficient, targeted, and profitable for all stakeholders involved. Drawing upon years of experience in the online ad industry, this post aims to provide a deep dive into the intricate world of RTB systems and explore their far-reaching impact on the advertising ecosystem.

What is Real-Time Bidding?

Real-Time Bidding is an automated process where ad impressions are bought and sold in real-time, often in a matter of milliseconds. When a user visits a web page that has ad space available, an auction occurs. Advertisers bid for the opportunity to show their ad to that specific user, based on various factors such as user behavior, location, and more.

How Does RTB Work?

  1. User Visits a Site: When a user visits a web page with ad space, an ad request is sent to an ad exchange.

  2. Auction Begins: The ad exchange packages the user’s data and sends it to multiple advertisers who then assess the value of the impression.

  3. Bidding: Advertisers submit their bids along with the ad they wish to display.

  4. Winning and Display: The highest bidder wins the auction, and their ad is displayed on the web page.

The Technology Behind RTB

RTB systems are built on robust technology stacks that can handle millions of auctions per second. Some of the key technologies involved are:

  • Data Management Platforms (DMPs): These collect and analyze vast amounts of data to help advertisers make more informed bids.

  • Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs): These act on behalf of advertisers to automate the decision-making process of ad buying.

  • Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs): These enable publishers to manage their ad impression inventory and maximize revenue.

The Benefits of RTB

  • Efficiency: RTB eliminates the need for manual negotiations and insertion orders, making the ad buying process more efficient.

  • Targeting: Advertisers can precisely target their desired audience, improving ROI.

  • Cost-Effectiveness: With real-time analytics, advertisers can continually optimize their campaigns, reducing wasted spend.

  • Transparency: Both advertisers and publishers have access to data that can provide insights into user behavior, pricing models, and more.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Privacy Concerns: The extensive data collection required for targeted advertising has led to growing concerns about user privacy.

  • Ad Fraud: Like any online system, RTB is susceptible to fraudulent activities, requiring robust security measures.

  • Complexity: The real-time nature and vast scale of RTB systems can be complex to manage and require specialized expertise.

The Future of RTB

The use of AI and machine learning is expected to further automate and optimize the RTB process. With advancements in predictive analytics and automation, the future of RTB looks promising but will require constant innovation to address challenges such as privacy concerns and ad fraud.


Real-Time Bidding has fundamentally transformed online advertising, providing benefits like precise targeting, cost-effectiveness, and unparalleled efficiency. However, it's essential to be aware of the challenges and continuously adapt to the rapidly changing landscape. The technology and strategies behind RTB will continue to evolve, shaping the future of online advertising.