Auction eCommerce

What Is RTB? Real-Time Bidding in Advertising Explained

Updated March 1  |  5 min read
Key Takeaways
  • What is RTB? Real-time bidding (RTB) is an automated process for buying and selling online advertising space, usually on an ad exchange.
  • In RTB auctions, buyers can bid on individual impressions based on predetermined parameters such as geography, demographics, device type, etc. The highest bidder wins the impression and the advertisement is displayed on the publisher's website.
  • With RTB, advertisers are able to target their ads and reach the right users in real time. This programmatic advertising helps deliver higher ROI as well as more efficient use of advertising spending.
An ad network can optimize campaign performance for digital ads.

Real-time bidding has taken off as one of the most popular ways for marketers and advertisers to buy ad impressions in the 2020s. From programmatic platforms to direct websites, RTB is revolutionizing the advertising industry by allowing advertisers access to premium inventory in real close auctions.

In this blog post, we will explain what real-time bidding is, explore its benefits and drawbacks, and discuss why RTB plays an important role in digital advertising today. Keep reading if you’re curious about RTB advertising technology and how it can help your business.

Real-time bidding advertisers use multiple ad exchanges to make the most of every ad campaign.

Real-Time Bidding Explained — How Does RTB Work?

Real-time bidding (RTB) is an auction-based system in which advertisers bid against each other for the right to display their ads on websites and apps. In a typical RTB process, advertisers set up bids for each impression or click and the highest bidder wins the opportunity to display their ad.

Advertisers usually determine their bid amount based on a combination of targeting criteria, campaign objectives, and budget constraints. RTB allows for faster execution times than traditional methods of buying ad space as well as improved targeting capabilities.

Campaign budgets rely on advertisers getting the winning ad on a demand-side platform.

Why RTB Is Important

Real-time bidding (RTB) presents advantages for both advertisers and publishers when utilized properly.

For Advertisers

Advertisers usually see faster execution times and more precise targeting capabilities, the ability to refine bids based on user data, improved ROI, and more relevant ads. Advertisers interested in utilizing programmatic advertising use a supply-side platform.

  • Advertisers can bid for impressions based on individual characteristics such as geography, demographics, etc.
  • RTB allows advertisers to quickly and easily scale their campaigns in response to changing market conditions.
  • Real-time bidding also reduces wasted impressions and increases the transparency of the buying process within the digital advertising industry.
  • Advertisers have access to real-time analytics with RTB, allowing them to better understand user behavior and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Advertisers have multiple ad exchanges to choose from for programmatic ad buying.

For Publishers

Publishers realize increased revenue and fill rates, access to a wider variety of buyers in an auction format, and visibility into who is buying their inventory. Publishers use demand-side platforms to organize and automate each ad impression.

  • Real-time bidding is more efficient and faster at selling ad inventory than manual advertising, allowing publishers to optimize campaigns quickly and easily for multiple advertisers.
  • RTB gives publishers greater control over the ad impressions they are selling, allowing them to set certain criteria like price floor, targeting options, etc.
  • RTB often results in higher yields for publishers as advertisers compete for the best ad inventory.
  • Publishers in the digital advertising industry have access to real-time analytics with RTB, allowing them to better understand user behavior and make adjustments accordingly.
The programmatic advertising ecosystem involves both the supply-side platform and demand side platforms.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Real-Time Bidding?

Real-time bidding (RTB) is an auction-based system that allows advertisers to bid against each other for the right to display their advertisements on websites and apps.

This system offers faster executions than traditional methods of buying ad space, as well as enhanced targeting capabilities. Advertisers can refine bids based on user data and other targeting criteria, in order to increase their chances of winning.


  • Faster execution times than traditional methods of buying ad space
  • Enhanced control and targeting capabilities
  • More precise targeting of audiences
  • Potential for high returns on investment


  • Risk of wasting large amounts of money
  • Lack of transparency in the bidding process
  • Intrusive nature due to its ability to track web browsing activity
A demand-side platform takes an advertiser's bid request and compares it to others seeking ad space.

How Much Does RTB Cost?

Real-time bidding costs are primarily measured by the cost per mille (CPM)—also known as cost per thousand (CPT)—programmatic advertising model. CPM is calculated based on the number of impressions each placement receives in a given month or quarter.

The biggest advantage of display ads over traditional advertising is their flexibility. Unlike traditional ads, display ads can be changed or adjusted depending on their effectiveness, allowing advertisers to optimize campaigns and get maximum value from their budget.

RTB is usually measured in cost per thousand impressions.

Real-Time Bidding, Programmatic Advertising, and Ad Exchange

Real-time bidding (RTB) and programmatic advertising are two terms that are often used interchangeably. The term RTB in advertising is more specifically related to the buying and selling of digital advertising inventory in an auction format.

Programmatic advertising, on the other hand, is an umbrella term that covers any type of automated technology used to purchase digital media. It includes RTB but also encompasses any technology or platform which allows publishers to access different demand sources and buyers or advertisers to access different supply sources.

An ad exchange is a platform that facilitates the buying and selling of online advertising space from different parties. Ad exchanges connect buyers and sellers, including advertisers, publishers, networks, and other intermediaries. Some of the most popular supply-side platforms are AppNexus, OpenX, Google Ad Manager, SpotX, and Index Exchange.

A publisher's inventory is the amount of ad space they have to sell.

Make Real-Time Bidding on Ad Exchanges Easy

Making use of advertising RTB on ad exchanges can be done outside of your regular business software, but why waste the insights that your analytics can provide? Bringing your CRM or EMR into the equation can give you much more information so that you can make better decisions on your ad spending.

Clarity Ventures wants to help. We can integrate your existing software so that it interacts with a supply-side platform and make auction bids when it's best for your business. We'd love to talk to you about it, so get in touch for a free Discovery process and consultation to see how you can make the most of your advertising dollars.

Ad networks development for a private marketplace



Real-time bidding (RTB) is a way for advertisers to purchase digital inventory in real time through automated auction-style systems. RTB makes it possible for buyers and sellers to bid on impressions, allowing the highest bidder to be placed on a website or app at any given time. Real-time bidding advertising ensures that advertisers are able to target their campaigns more effectively and efficiently with digital ads.


Real-time bidding offers several benefits for both the advertiser and the publisher. For advertisers, it provides greater control over their campaigns and ensures that they are reaching the right audience at the right time. It also reduces costs by allowing them to bid on specific inventory instead of large batches of impressions.

For publishers, it provides a more efficient way to monetize their digital inventory as they can receive higher bids from advertisers who are interested in targeting those users.


Ad bidding is the process of competing with other advertisers for ad inventory. Advertisers set up bids for each impression or click, and the highest bidder wins the opportunity to display their ad. The amount of money that an advertiser bids are usually determined by a combination of factors such as targeting criteria, campaign objectives, and budget constraints. Ad bidding can be done manually or with automated RTB systems.


What is RTB advertising? Real-time bidding (RTB) and programmatic buying are both methods of buying digital ad inventory. RTB is an auction-based system in which advertisers bid against each other for the right to display their ads on websites and apps.

Programmatic buying is the automated process of buying and selling digital ad inventory using a variety of different technologies such as algorithms, artificial intelligence, data management platforms, and demand-side platforms.

Both RTB and programmatic buying offer advantages over traditional methods of buying ad space, including faster execution times and improved targeting capabilities.


Real-time Bidding (RTB) presents a host of advantages in the realm of digital advertising, revolutionizing campaign management and effectiveness.

  • Precision Targeting: RTB allows advertisers to precisely target their audience based on real-time data, ensuring ads reach the most relevant users, thereby increasing the likelihood of engagement.
  • Cost Efficiency: Advertisers can bid in real-time for individual impressions, optimizing budget allocation. This competitive auction system ensures fair market value and cost-effective ad placements.
  • Adaptability: The real-time nature of RTB empowers advertisers to make instant adjustments to campaigns based on performance metrics. This agility enables timely responses to changing market conditions and audience behaviors.
  • Transparency and Control: Advertisers have real-time visibility into campaign performance, including impressions, clicks, and conversions. This transparency fosters better control and informed decision-making.

Real-time bidding offers precision, cost efficiency, adaptability, and transparency, making it a pivotal strategy for ad networks seeking targeted and efficient digital advertising solutions.


Real-time bidding (RTB) in advertising is a programmatic auction system where ad impressions are bought and sold instantaneously, on a per-impression basis. It's a demand-side platform that lets advertisers buy ad space from those that sell ad inventory.

When a user visits a website, an ad space becomes available, triggering an auction among advertisers. Advertisers running ad campaigns bid in real-time to display their ad to that specific user, i.e., their target audience. The winning bid ad is then instantly displayed.

Real-time bidding allows for precise targeting, as advertisers can bid based on factors like user demographics and behavior on sites that sell ad space. This dynamic and automated bidding process enhances efficiency and effectiveness in digital advertising campaigns, making real-time bidding a cornerstone of programmatic advertising strategies.

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Stephen Beer is a Content Writer at Clarity Ventures and has written about various tech industries for nearly a decade. He is determined to demystify HIPAA, integration, and eCommerce with easy-to-read, easy-to-understand articles to help businesses make the best decisions.