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Supply Side Platforms or SSP - The Ultimate Guide For Publishers
Published on December 16, 2022
Supply side platforms are the ultimate solution for publishers to sell their inventory to advertisers. They efficiently automate and expedite media buying. But what exactly are these platforms and how are they utilized in online advertising? This blog post is the one-stop source for publishers who want to learn everything about supply side platforms or so-called SSPs.
What is an SSP
A supply side platform is an adtech platform for publishers to manage their ad inventory. By using an SSP solution, publishers can efficiently sell, monetize, and optimize their app and website inventories. It connects publishers to ad networks, ad exchanges, demand-side platforms (DSP), and data management platforms to help them sell ad space. Supply Side Platform software is a key player in real-time bidding (RTB) media transactions, where publishers sell display, video, and native ad space to advertisers on a per-impression basis.
History behind supply side platforms
Let’s break down the history of SSPs into three phases.
Phase 1: Manual negotiations
Display advertising became a lucrative source of income for publishers ever since digitalization took over print media. Slowly, digital ads started to replace print ads up to a point where almost the entire advertising ecosystem shifted to digital platforms. Yet, negotiations still took place manually between the buyers and sellers of digital media in a setup referred to as direct sales.
The disadvantage of this system was that some inventory remained unsold after direct sales, incurring a loss for the publishers. This is when the need for an automated intermediary system arose – one that would automatically connect publishers with remnant inventory to advertisers who are on the lookout for ad space.
Phase 2: Ad networks
Enter ad networks, platforms that act as a broker between media buyers and sellers. Ad networks automate the entire process of buying and selling ad space and connect publishers looking to sell their inventory to advertisers willing to buy it. After direct sales were made, publishers sold their remnant inventory on the ad network that offered them the highest CPM with the help of network optimization and paid a commission to the network.
Although there was no flaw in the setup, technological advancements such as real-time bidding (RTB) called for an evolution, and as a result, SSPs were introduced.
Phase 3: Supply side platforms and real-time bidding
The first few supply side platforms came into being in the late 2000s, and much later, popular SSP partner companies started to adopt real-time bidding (RTB), which was on the rise. RTB is an automated auction-based buying system that enables media buyers to access multiple inventory sources and bid on individual user impression-level to display ads.
As this possibility did not exist before RTB, it rapidly gained popularity among publishers and advertisers to sell and buy remnant inventory. Over the years, SSP solutions have evolved to support advanced functionalities that connect media buyers and sellers directly and allow for seamless RTB transactions.
Position of SSP solutions in the advertising ecosystemNow that we know the definition and the formula, let's look at the top 5 factors affecting eCPM.
SSP platforms represent publishers in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. They provide an interface for the publishers to analyze ad campaigns and manage their ads and inventory. They can connect with DSPs, ad networks, trading desks, and ad exchanges to sell inventory and even perform some complex operations, such as the following.
RTB transactions: SSPs sell ad inventory to DSPs through automated RTB transactions with the help of an ad exchange. These transactions are faster, more efficient, and deliver higher ad revenue.
Ad network optimization: When multiple ad networks are connected to a publisher, each of them may offer a different fill and a different CPM. For instance, one may offer 70% fill and $1 CPM, and the other may provide only 30% fill at $2 CPM. Integrating an SSP solution will help publishers choose the right ad networks to fill the inventory at the right time to maximize both fill and CPM.
Frequency capping: SSP solutions collect user data from cookies to operate frequency capping, a process that involves limiting the number of times an ad is shown to the user. Using the cookie data, an SSP records the number of times it is shown and applies the capping limit.
Relevance: SSP solutions ensure that only relevant ad networks participate in a real-time auction to avoid showing random or unrelated ads.
Features and components of a supply side platform software
Below are the main features of a supply side platform.
- User interface: SSPs have a user interface through which publishers can manage ads, advertisers, and ad inventory and access essential metrics related to ad performance.
- Analytics and reporting: Information about how the ad inventory performs in terms of fill rates, clicks, impressions, and other essential metrics are available in the form of a dashboard on an SSP.
- Header bidding: SSP solutions optionally support the header bidding functionality to enable website publishers to get demand and manage the bidding for their website inventory.
- Yield optimization: Yield optimization is the process of using advertising data to determine the best-performing inventories and exploiting optimization techniques to improve ad performance and revenue.
- Inventory and ad management: Supply side platforms allow publishers to manage their ad inventory and ads by blocking some advertisers.
Below are the components of a supply side platform:
- Backend infrastructure: For supply side platforms to help publishers manage and sell ad inventory, there are a lot of infrastructure and technical processes that occur in the backend.
- Integrations: Supply side platforms must integrate with other adtech platforms like DSPs, top ad exchanges, ad servers, and data management platforms to enable media buying and selling to be carried out smoothly.
- Ad exchange: SSPs support media buying and selling by connecting publishers to demand partners through ad exchanges. However, some advanced SSP programmatic solutions these days incorporate the functionalities of ad exchanges, eliminating the need to pair with external exchanges.
- Trackers: Trackers are software components like cookies that collect data about the website and its audience to share it with the other components, such as the user and reporting databases.
- Reporting database: The reporting database collects information from the trackers and generates detailed reports on ad campaigns and user insights.
How does an SSP programmatic solution workSupply side platforms utilize the programmatic advertising approach to automate the selling and managing of ad space. Below are the steps that an SSP programmatic solution goes through to successfully sell ad space and deliver ads.
- Publishers make their ad inventory available on an SSP programmatic solution.
- SSP programmatic solution sends an ad request to ad exchanges. Ad exchanges make the inventory available for DSPs to bid on.
- When RTB media buying is in place, the DSPs in the network bid on the user impression of the publisher’s ad inventory.
- The SSP chooses the winding bid based on criteria such as demand partner, target audience, etc., set up by the publisher.
- The SSP programmatic solution delivers the winning bid, and the ad is displayed to the user.
Difference between DSP and SSP
|Demand side platform (DSP)||Supply side platform (SSP)|
Used by advertisers
Used by publishers
Helps advertisers buy ad inventory through ad exchanges
Helps publishers sell their ad inventory by connecting to ad exchanges
Allows advertisers to set up audience targeting and choose cost models
Supply side platform vs. ad exchange
Supply side platforms help publishers make their app and website inventories available to ad exchanges for selling. On the other hand, ad exchanges aggregate SSPs and DSPs, connecting them to each other to sell and buy ad inventory.
Difference between SSPs and ad networksAd networks act as supply aggregators predominantly for tier 2 and 3 publishers and onboard them on a commission basis. On the contrary, SSPs are technologically complex and even involve a server cost; these factors may be unaccommodating for tier 2 and tier 3 publishers. Thus, ad networks are preferred over SSPs.
Supply side platform benefits for publishers
While the benefits of supply side platforms can be understood from their features and functionalities, here is a detailed list of the advantages of using SSPs for publishers.
- Detailed reporting: Reporting and analytics are essential to scaling app growth and revenue. Reports on how the ads are performing, which ads have the highest performance, and how much revenue is coming in. All good SSP programmatic platforms offer an in-depth reporting system that helps publishers in decision-making related to in-app ads.
- Dynamic floor pricing: By allowing dynamic floor prices, SSP programmatic platforms enable publishers to sell their inventories to advertisers at the best prices in the advertiser market. Furthermore, the best SSPs allow hard and soft floor pricing to ensure maximum revenue.
- Aggregation of multiple ad networks: The ability of SSP programmatic platforms to connect with various ad networks, exchanges, and other demand sources lets publishers optimize their ad revenue rather than just managing with existing demand sources.
- Optimize multiple demand sources: To make the most of multiple demand sources, a publisher would need to hire additional resources to manage the waterfall since ad networks may be integrated through S2S, RTB, or SDK mediation. But with SSPs, all this is managed to optimize multiple demand sources by simply moving them up or down on the dashboard.
- Ad format optimization: Some supply side platforms now even offer ad format optimization through insights on how they can place their ad units better to get better CTRs and hence better CPMs.
- Transparency: By offering a transparent analytics system, SSPs offer all the data at publishers’ fingertips. Also, they are highly simplified platforms, requiring less effort from the publishers to manage them.
- Brand safety: SSP programmatic platforms incorporate brand-safety mechanisms that ensure that the publisher inventory is offered only to legitimate advertisers, blocking bad-quality ads that can ruin the brand image.
Supply side platforms are the all-in-one solution to managing publishers’ inventory right from putting it up for sale to getting the right ads for increased ad revenue. The best SSPs for publishers are those that have evolved with technology to completely automate the process, therefore, becoming the most sought-after adtech platforms for selling ad inventory. Publishers must choose wisely to ensure that they generate maximum ad revenue smoothly.
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