• Jervis Koo

What is a Supply-side Platform (SSP)?

Advertisers are increasingly using Demand-Side Platforms (DSP) and exchanges to purchase their online advertising, but what about publishers? What are supply-side platforms actually for? Here’s a quick overview of what SSPs are and what they actually do:

What is a supply-side platform (SSP)?

A supply-side platform is a software used to sell programmatic advertising in the digital space. SSPs are most often used by online publishers to help them sell display, video and mobile ads.

Shouldn't it be a demand-side platform (DSP)?

Technically, yes. A supply-side platform is basically the publisher equivalent of a DSP. Where DSPs are used by marketers to buy ad impressions for cheap, SSPs are designed by publishers to do the opposite: to maximise the prices their impressions sell at.

So how does SSPs actually work?

Well, it's complicated. The simple answer is that SSPs allow publishers to connect their inventory to multiple ad exchanges, DSPs, and networks at once. This in turn allows a range of potential buyers to purchase ad space — and for publishers to get the best rates. When an SSP offers impressions to ad exchanges, DSPs analyses and purchases them on behalf of marketers depending on where the impressions are served, demographic of users, price, etc. The idea is that by opening up impressions to as many potential buyers as possible — often through real-time auctions — publishers are able to maximise the revenue from their inventory. note: SSPs sometimes are referred to as yield-optimisation platforms.

So why does SSPs matter?

Paying an ad buyer to physically negotiate over media pricing is a thing of a past for savvy marketers in today's digital world. Marketers would prefer purchasing their ads more efficiently and cheaply through programmatic platforms. This, however, often leaves publishers with the stick as programmatic selling can drive the value of inventory down. SSPs were created in part to help combat this and also to help publishers more efficiently aggregate and manage their relationships with multiple networks and ad buyers.

Do publishers then have more “control” over their inventory on SSPs?

In addition to giving access to a large range of potential buyers, SSPs also offers the ability for publishers to set “price floors,” which dictate the minimum prices for which their inventory can sell to specific buyers. Without price floors, certain publishers would rather run ads in-house vs selling their inventory on SSPs for cheap. SSPs can also be used to dictate which advertisers can and can’t purchase inventory.

Is there still a need for human sales team?

Absolutely. SSPs are most often used to sell inventory that human sales teams have failed to sell. However, more media owners are using the data collected from their SSPs to determine whether human salespeople or programmatic trading returns the greatest margins, and to make business decisions based on that information. Some publishers are also beginning to use SSPs to traffic campaigns sold directly by their salespeople. In that instance, an SSP isn’t involved in the sale of the inventory, but simply helps in the serving and tracking it.

What are some examples of supply-side platforms?

Vendors that currently sell SSP technology include Google, OpenX, PubMatic, Rubicon Project, AppNexus, Right Media and AOL.