Ad Tech & Ad Ops

What is a Supply-Side Platform?

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Ad tech loves its three-letter acronyms, and one of the most commonly heard ones is SSP, short for supply-side platform. So, what are supply-side platforms? Who uses them? And how do they work? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a supply-side platform?

A supply-side platform (SSP), also known as a sell-side platform, is a technology platform that enables web publishers to manage their ad inventory, fill it with ads, and receive ad revenue. That’s pretty much it.

So then, what’s a demand-side platform?

We’ll cover that in more detail in another post but for now let’s just say that while SSPs are used by publishers to sell ad space, DSPs are used by advertisers to buy ad space. The main function of a DSP is helping advertisers buy ad impressions from exchanges as cheaply and efficiently as possible, while the main function of an SSP is to help publishers maximise ad revenue. Both platforms run on similar technologies but are used at different ends of the transaction.

How do SSPs work?

Supply-side platform opens up the publisher’s ad inventory to multiple ad networks, ad exchanges, and DSPs simultaneously. This allows a huge number of potential buyers to bid and purchase ad space on a publisher’s website—increasing bid competition and enabling publishers to get the highest possible rates for their ad impressions. The underlying principle is the economics of supply and demand, by increasing the demand pool for a publisher’s ad inventory, SSPs increase the value of the publisher’s ad inventory. For this reason, SSPs are also sometimes called “yield-optimization platforms”.

What are the benefits of using an SSP?

The most obvious one is ad revenue optimization. But there are other advantages too. Increasingly, advertisers do not want to bear the cost of hiring people for buying ads manually. They would rather invest in ad-buying technologies such as DSPs. The problem for publishers, however, is that programmatic selling in bulk threatens to devalue ad inventory, and lead to loss of revenue. SSPs can solve that problem and help publishers more efficiently manage their relationship with multiple ad buyers and exchanges.

Who controls the ad inventory?

Publishers retain complete control of their ad inventory. If anything, they have more control with an SSP. Most supply-side platforms allow publishers to set “price floors”—the minimum amount at which the inventory can be sold to a specific buyer, or through a specific channel. They can also be used to dictate which advertiser can and cannot buy inventory on the publisher’s website. This kind of granular functionality allow publishers to fine-tune their ad sales process in a standardised way.

How do you choose the right SSP?

What you need will depend on your specific use case, but there are some things you can keep in mind. The platform should be robust, it should have all the control features that you need, and must provide accurate and real-time reporting numbers about ad sales. You should also check if the SSP allows you to onboard your existing demand and partnerships, as this may be invaluable to an existing publisher. Think about support: An enterprise provider may have high entry requirements and may not be able to give you the kind of personalised support that a smaller, scrappy ad tech company might be willing to. Finally, how simple or complicated is the setup process? Is the user interface intuitive or does it have a learning curve? All these things should factor in your decision-making process when choosing an SSP.

What are the major SSPs?

Google, OpenX, PubMatic, Rubicon Project, AppNexus, Right Media and AOL are some of the leading vendors that offer SSP technology to publishers.