Let’s get the basics right. So What is a Supple-Side Platform (SSP)?
A supply-side platform is a software that helps the publishers to sell their inventory programmatically. Using an SSP, the publishers can completely automate the sales of their digital ad space. Depending on the chosen supply-side platform, the publisher has many ways to sell this inventory.
- Sell in a real-time auction (RTB)
- Sell guaranteed impressions using programmatic direct.
- Call your favorite advertisers for a private auction.
Apart from cutting down the boring menial tasks like creating insertion orders to closing a deal, an SSP also provides greater control to publisher regarding its brand safety, frequency control of ad impressions, and optimizing revenue if the job is done right.
All right, I think I have a vague idea now. Isn’t this suppose to be a ‘Know it all guide’?
You are curious and that’s amazing! Let us, deep-dive, into this ad tech to understand all the jargon and terminologies used. Although SSP could be a standalone tool, it is connected or has shared components.
SSPs need to have the necessary infrastructure and architecture to retrieve data from the front end and process all the requests using machine learning.
This is the user interface that is used to take inputs from the users and process all the external requests.
The real-time bidding technology that helps the publisher sell their inventory in an automated real-time auction.
You know all those controls that publishers have from choosing the type of creative to whitelisting/blacklisting advertisers.
Tracking and Reporting
You cannot shoot in the dark, you need data. Tags can help you to track various metrics and also reporting interface helps you retrieve all the data tracked in a user-friendly/ human-readable format.
Although SSPs can work as a standalone tool, to sell programmatically publishers have to connect it to the ad exchange to intimate the advertisers to buy their inventory/call for an auction. This is the ad tech platform that is a collection of inventory from various publishers. Ad Exchanges are connected to multiple DSPs constituting various advertisers trying to bid for the ad inventory.
Oh, wait! It sounds like AdNetwork to me…
A good question indeed. Over the years, the difference between an ad exchange and ad network has been blurring out. Adnetwork is also an aggregation of impressions from various publishers but they buy inventory from an exchange and sell it to the advertisers at a markup price.
What! Why would anyone accept that? Get ready to be surprised: The Google Display Network(GDN). The ad network of Google that spans 90% of users across the web is basically participating in the auction. Once it wins an auction, it sells the inventory (with a markup) to the advertisers in the Google Ads platform.
That’s something! How does all this fit in the advertising ecosystem?
This definitely calls for a diagram. Let me sketch that for you right now.
Okay, here we go. The image above pretty much sums up what happens in an RTB auction. All the below process is executed in a fraction of a second.
- Let’s say you visit Huffington’s post webpage.
- The publisher is connected to the SSP communicates to the ad exchange that there is an available ad slot.
- The ad exchange which is in turn connected to multiple DSPs announces this and calls for an auction.
- The DSPs place the bid and communicates it to the ad exchange.
- The bid is placed considering a multitude of factors complementing DMP providing audience insights. For example, if you visited the Nike site before to browse shoes, then the DMP identifies you using the cookie and the DSP bids higher as you belong to their retargeting audience clusters.
- Ad exchange announces the winning bid to the DSPs.
- Once the winning bid is communicated to the adserver by the DSP, it pushes the tag that contains creatives and tracking codes.
- This tag is downloaded on the user’s browser and the user views the ad.
Why is this important to me as a publisher?
Apart from the usual benefit of automating the whole selling process saving you a ton of time/money, SSPs are incredibly powerful and can help you in many ways.
Using SSPs, publishers can provide a better user experience to the user by blacklisting certain advertisers that are not suitable to their user base. The publishers also have the possibility of whitelisting only a chosen list of advertisers. In short, SSP provides more control to the publishers.
High fill rate, leave no inventory unsold
When programmatic advertising just began, it was basically used to sell
remnant inventory. It is not the case anymore, the publishers have been seeing better performance and a higher fill rate. SSP tries to sell all the possible ad impressions maximizing the revenue for the publishers.
Call your top advertisers for a private auction
Want to introduce your site to new advertisers? Or do you have a list of top advertisers that your sales team prefers? You can call them for a private auction. You can also sell your premium or high performing placement this way.
Set floor price to maximize revenue
Publishers sometimes have a problem that the winning bid is just too low. The user was not worth the high bid for the advertiser, but the publisher could have sold in-house ads to promote the new subscription model or sell in house products to generate more revenue. Well, the good news is you as a publisher can set a floor price. In case there is no winner, in house ads run. If not the winning bid (above the floor price) is shown to the user.
Improve user experience by limiting ad frequency
You have worked hard to write quality content to your users. It is not the best practise to shoo them away with lame repetitive ads. Using SSP you can limit the ad frequency to a set frequency.
Header Bidding has been a hot topic for a while now, what is it exactly?
Header bidding has helped the publishers get the best price for their inventory. Using this RTB technique, the publishers can call multiple DSPs simultaneously (as opposed to the waterfall bidding technique) to bid on an ad slot. Here the highest bidder wins and the slot displays the highest bid advertiser’s ad.
You must be wondering, ah well. Isn’t this how an auction should be? Well, Yes, but no. Before the header bidding, the daisy chain bidding model or waterfall method was widely implemented which uses sequential bidding.
Curious to know more? Here is the All you need to know guide for Header Bidding.
Okay, so SSPs maximize my revenue and DSPs minimize costs to advertisers :/ Who is winning this game?
Fair question! The ad tech behind SSP and DSP is very similar but the objective is quite the opposite. There are no winners or losers, there are only optimizers. Although, programmatic buying means automated buying it does not stop there. Like all your digital marketing campaigns, it is a continuous optimization until the campaign ends.
However, publishers and advertisers have one common goal to get the most out of that particular ad spot. So if you are an advertiser, use the proper targeting techniques, pair it up with a kickass creative relevant to your user and monitor your campaigns closely.
And as a publisher, make sure you are not compromising the site experience for the user by putting all the possible placements out there for auction. Too many ads do not necessarily mean more revenue. Limit the frequency, blacklist advertisers, implement more skin and native ads for seamless integrations and test to learn more about what works for you.
Hmm, I see. What are some options out there for me?
There are a lot of competitive offers available in the market. Each has its unique offering and promises to provide the best revenue for the publishers (duh!). Here are some examples for you to get started with your research: OpenX, Google Ad Manager, AppNexus, Pubmatic, Rubicon Project and much more.
More the options, the higher the confusion. But I hate to break it to you, there is no one magical solution that works for everybody. So ensure that you do your research well and come up with some test options to launch a pilot project. You can then scale and finally choose the right SSP for you (Wow, feels a bit like dating eh?)