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An Introduction to Supply Side Platforms

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Supply side platforms are tools that help publishers get the best prices for their inventory and, through real time bidding, enable them to have a steady supply of targeted ads on their sites. A supply side platform or SSP is one of the emerging technologies that more and more publishers are using to make the most of their advertising space.

While supply side platforms may be offered by companies specializing in this type of service, they are more often part of a wide range of inventory management related services. A good example of this is Admeld, which is part of Google’s Doubleclick Ad Exchange. Other companies that offer this type of platform include OpenX and Pubmatic. We’ll be exploring these services a little later, after talking about what supply platforms are and why they are so powerful.

How Supply Side Platforms Work
Online advertising has been getting both more popular and more technologically optimized in recent years. In particular, developments such as real time bidding and programmatic buying have largely automated the process of buying and selling ads. In some ways, these technologies have been more advantageous for advertisers and publishers alike. RTB, for example, makes it possible to place targeted ads directly in front of website visitors who match the demographics/behaviour and other patterns selected by the advertisers. This has allowed advertisers to purchase relevant impressions and get better returns on their investments. Publishers, also get paid better for such impressions as every impression is auctioned and sold to the highest bidder. Supply side platforms are tools that help them accomplish this. One way to understand how these platforms operate is to compare them to stock exchanges and other financial markets. When investors are ready to sell stocks or commodities, they use either a broker to negotiate the highest possible price for the shares or enter it on a terminal. This type of transaction, of course, is highly automated as brokers use software to keep track of prices and bring buyers and sellers together. In a similar fashion, supply side platforms help publishers get the best prices for their advertising space.

Main Benefits of using a Supply Side Platforms
In addition to helping publishers get as much revenue as possible for their available space, supply side platforms help make the process fast and efficient. Rather than having to seek out advertisers, publishers can rely on these platforms to do this for them. This helps them avoid having vacant space or unsold inventory on their sites. From the advertiser’s point of view, SSPs are also efficient and beneficial. Advertisers, through real time bidding, can choose how much they are willing to pay to get their ad in front of a highly targeted audience. Pricing is completely transparent, and they can often get better results than they could using traditional display advertising methods. Supply side platforms, like all types of technology related to online advertising, is getting more sophisticated all the time. They now provide thorough analytics regarding campaign yields and other vital metrics. Publishers can use this data to create content that allows them to increase their ad revenues in the future.

Supply Side Platform
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Some of the Leading Supply Side Platforms
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular supply side platforms.

Google Admeld
Admeld has been around for several years, but in 2011 it was purchased by Google for $400 million. This is a good indication that the search engine giant believes that this technology is going to be important in the future. Since Google is involved in every aspect of the online advertising business, Admeld is a natural choice for many publishers. Admeld is part of Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange – sometimes referred to as AdX. Making use of this platform certainly has its advantages for publishers. In addition to being able to tap into the Admeld supply side platform, publishers are able to work with all of the top ad networks, agencies and demand side platforms (DSPs). It’s also possible to negotiate exclusive deals with buyers at special rates.

OpenX Lift
In 2012, OpenX acquired the innovative LiftDNA supply side platform. It recently changed the name to Lift. OpenX had already been well known as a leading provider of online advertising technology, and with this addition it is better able to serve the needs of publishers. There are some unique benefits to OpenX Lift. It was the first yield optimization technology that operates from publishers’ own ad servers, giving them the maximum amount of control to manage campaigns. It’s possible to manage DSPs, SSPs and ad exchanges from this platform, gaining access to crucial pricing information in real time. Lift is also able to work with any ad server, so you aren’t limited to using OpenX’s own Enterprise platform. This gives publishers the ability to get more out of any ad server they are using.

Pubmatic
Pubmatic is another leading supply side platform that has introduced some unique innovations to the industry. For one thing, their platform gives publishers access to more than 400 ad exchanges, ad networks and demand side platforms. These resources make it possible to negotiate optimum pricing with the most appropriate partners. Aside from top notch analytics and reporting, Pubmatic offers a unified optimization engine. This is a real time, automated auction that is able to monetize impressions from many different demand sources. There is also support for mobile inventory, which is becoming a larger and larger part of internet advertising.

Conclusion: Supply Side Platforms Are Essential For Publishers
Many industry experts are predicting that supply side platforms will soon be practically mandatory for publishers who want to stay competitive. As real time bidding and programmatic buying become ever more popular, publishers need a platform that allows them to earn the most revenue from their online properties. Supply side platforms allow publishers to automate the selling of advertising space and to get the best prices through real time bidding. While not all publishers are embracing this new technology with unbridled enthusiasm, it is clearly going to play an important role in the future of advertising. There is no simple solution to the challenge of selling ad space at the highest price point. Every business has to define its needs and goals and do its own research. Some prefer to work with Google, which offers comprehensive advertising tools. Others will find the approach used by other companies such as Pubmatic or OpenX Lift to be more in line with their needs. Regardless of what platform is chosen, it’s also important to remember that there will always be a need for intelligent human analysis alongside these innovative automated solutions.