What Is a Supply-Side Platform (SSP)? + Examples

Sep 20, 2023
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What is an SSP, and how does it help publishers navigate the digital advertising environment? Click here to learn the answer.

Find out how an SSP, or advertising supply side platform, helps publishers monetize their websites and digital content.

Digital media transformed how publishers monetize their content, making the advertising ecosystem more powerful (and sophisticated) in the process. Today, a major platform like Google Ads can serve 30 billion ad impressions daily, and the total market for ad inventory is even larger. Selling ad inventory in this environment isn’t a problem — but finding trusted advertisers willing to pay premium prices can be.

To solve this problem, many publishers turn to supply-side platforms (SSPs) to optimize inventory management at scale. But what is an SSP, and how does it help publishers make the most of their audience’s time and attention? Here’s everything publishers and advertising professionals need to know.

Expand your knowledge of the programmatic ecosystem even further with our comprehensive resource, What Is Programmatic Advertising?

What Is an SSP?

A supply-side platform, or SSP, is a tool that helps publishers and media owners manage their advertising inventory. This includes all the places they have ready to display advertisements, such as free ad-supported streaming TV ad breaks or rewarded placements in mobile games. It lets publishers access the broader digital advertising ecosystem, unifying data from ad exchanges, advertisers, and other channels in a single interface. With this information, SSPs can automatically fill their ad inventory, deliver ads to users, and process advertiser revenue.

Supply-side platforms should not be confused with demand-side platforms (DSPs), which help advertisers manage the buying and selling of ad content. However, DSPs often interact with SSPs through an ad exchange by bidding on available inventory.

5 Examples of Prominent SSPs

    • Google Ad Manager: Google is one of the most powerful forces in digital advertising, and the SSP functionality of Google Ad Manager brings that ubiquity to bear for publishers. Billed as a “complete platform to grow ad revenue and protect your brand,” Google Ad Manager covers social, game, and streaming placements for publishers across industries.
    • OpenX: The three pillars OpenX targets for its SSP are addressability, transparency, and sustainability. It’s committed to sharing targeting capabilities across channels, giving its partners deep and fair insight into their advertising presence on the open web, and doing all that while remaining 100% carbon neutral.
    • Pubmatic: Through a combination of innovation and sophisticated analytics, PubMatic aims to be the ideal solution for value-driven publishers. Its SSP keeps publishers in control of their revenue opportunities, as well as their user experiences, across a range of channels, including CTV, mobile apps, web, and more.
    • Sharethrough: With the goal of creating a “sustainable advertising ecosystem for journalists, content creators, and app developers,” Sharethrough is squarely focused on taking a human-centric approach to programmatic advertising. Its premium demand partners and SmartSuite enhancement tech help the SSP follow through on that vision.
    • Xandr: Initially a combination of AppNexus and AT&T’s TV advertising business, Xandr now stands as a Microsoft subsidiary that offers publishers a broad platform of monetization options. Xandr’s Monetize SSP furnishes publishers with streamlined buying and selling platforms, including Prebid header bidding technology to maximize revenue.

Key Features and Capabilities of SSPs

At their core, SSPs are software solutions for monetizing digital media at scale, empowering publishers to sell their inventory and collect revenue across multiple channels. To accomplish this, SSPs provide a variety of ways to streamline inventory management while automating the publisher’s role in the ad-buying process:

Platform Integration

To fill inventory, publishers need to coordinate efforts with multiple external platforms, such as ad exchanges, ad networks, and DSPs. SSPs prioritize compatibility and interoperability to ensure media owners have access to the most profitable opportunities on the market. They typically do so via shared protocols, the most widely adopted of which is OpenRTB.

Unified Interface

While selling inventory, publishers often connect to external platforms and access data from first-party databases, such as ad servers and data management platforms. SSPs can allow publishers to control some or all all these tools and services from a single interface, allowing for less overhead, better visibility, and greater control over inventory performance.

Real-Time Bidding

Digital marketing is simply too complex and fast-moving for publishers to assign all of their inventory to advertisers manually. Instead, SSPs bring their placements to ad exchanges for automated real-time bidding (RTB) auctions that activate whenever a user requests an ad. Publishers use SSPs to assign starting bids based on inventory value, while DSPs optimize maximum bids if a placement reflects a target audience.

Header Bidding

SSP interoperability doesn’t just simplify inventory management — it lets publishers offer a placement across multiple ad exchanges simultaneously. This technique enables SSPs to analyze auctions across the entire programmatic ecosystem and find the most valuable bid before contacting the ad server.

How SSPs Benefit Publishers

For publishers, the benefits of SSP are not limited to technical capabilities. A well-designed platform also grants deeper visibility into performance and more control of inventory optimization.

Brand Safety

An SSP gives media owners more visibility into which advertisers buy their inventory while blocking any that pose brand safety risks. Publishers can focus on high-performing channels, block untrusted advertisers, and feel more confident that ads in their content reflect corporate values.

One channel where this is particularly vital is connected TV (CTV), where viewer engagement and trust are high. With a video ad completion rate of 97%, audiences are primed to notice and internalize which advertisements do — or don’t — reflect brand values. To learn more about how best to capitalize on CTV performance opportunities, read The CTV Advertising Playbook:

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Reporting and Data Analysis

The ability of SSPs to interface with multiple platforms makes them ideal for compiling and analyzing inventory reports. Publishers can use SSP reporting tools to track inventory fill rates, final bid prices, average bids by advertiser, and other crucial metrics. Many SSPs include report customization options to filter information under parameters such as region or time zone.

Yield Optimization

These data reports allow publishers to build on insights with advanced yield optimization strategies. These can include modifying ad placements, setting price floors on high-performing inventory, or adjusting inventory to reflect user activity throughout the day. When these techniques are implemented effectively, publishers can maximize revenue and increase profits.

The Future of SSPs

Modern digital advertising is changing, and SSPs are adapting to help publishers meet these developments. The advertising industry is moving away from traditional user identifiers such as cookies, partly in response to significant privacy concerns. SSPs may ultimately become privacy gatekeepers, anonymizing identifiers to protect users while providing targeting data that is still useful to advertisers.

SSPs may also diversify their role to encourage supply and demand. As SSPs incorporate advertiser feedback into their services, some create buyer-focused tools such as direct inventory purchases. By the same token, DSPs are seeking opportunities to integrate directly with publishers. While SSPs remain a foundation of digital media, these changes remind publishers to always look for high-performing opportunities.

At tvScientific, we help CTV providers sell their inventory directly to growth marketers while providing the same brand safety benefits — no additional technology layers required. Our partners include major television brands such as NBC Universal, Hulu, and Tubi, who benefit from a reliable source of CTV advertising revenue. Contact us today for a free demonstration of how tvScientific can monetize your premium inventory.