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What is a Supply-Side Platform? Using an Ad Server as an SSP

Sep 16, 202310 min read
Kate Novatska
Kate Novatska, AdTech Expert
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Keep reading or watch Sergey Shchelkov, Sales Executive at Epom, giving a crystal-clear explanation of what an SSP is and how it increases publishers’ revenue.

Talking to people a lot? Spending time on figuring out the best price for a single ad slot? Trying to get your fill rate to 100% with "bare hands"? Nah, that's totally out of fashion. An SSP is here to help: it's not just trendy, but a practical, time-saving, and handy solution — a cherished dream of a publisher.

With the digital ad spend forecast to take on two-thirds of total media spend by 2024, publishers need to know what is out there to help them capitalize on their ad spaces. Industry players seek more automation, more optimization, and better ROI in the tools they use for ad serving. That's why industry players shift to programmatic: it accounts for 85% of all ad operations being handled in the US.

We're talking a lot about a DSP as the booster of your programmatic superpowers. But how about the supply side? Publishers also have tricks up their sleeves: the exact opposite of a DSP called a supply-side platform. And did you ever know that none other than a mighty ad server can also masquerade as the one?

What is a Supply-Side Platform?

The simplest definition of an SSP is:

A supply-side platform is an automated ad tech platform that publishers use to manage, sell, and optimize ad inventory of their mobile apps or websites.

This means that publishers can use this platform to sell their online ad placements via real-time bidding (RTB) auction rather than negotiating prices directly with advertisers. Modern supply-side platforms also offer a formidable toolkit for more effective inventory management and revenue optimization.

With an SSP, publishers can sell their display, video, and mobile inventory within a single dashboard and get more control over their placements than if they utilize services of ad networks or third-party monetization platforms. The primary purpose of an SSP is to improve the efficiency of selling ad inventory for publishers by and maximizing views and fill rates.

How Does an SSP Work?

When digital advertising first emerged, publishers would manually assign ads to their empty placements. However, as audiences on publishers sites grew, competition among advertisers for ad spaces started to heat up. As such, it became impractical to place ads manually.

This is where SSPs came in. They work together with another piece of ad tech, demand-side platforms, or DSPs (used by advertisers) based on the RTB protocol we mentioned before.

Here, an SSP receives a request from the user's browser when they visit the website and passes it to the DSP, enriching it with available user info. Advertisers automatically bid on this placement based on pre-set targeting options, CPMs, and optimization through a DSP. The highest bidders win the slot, and their ad is displayed on the website.

RTB auction in an SSP

RTB auction is automated and lasts mere milliseconds. Besides automation, its obvious benefit is that it makes a publisher's ad inventory available to as many potential buyers as possible, maximizing the likelihood of selling the slot for the best price.

Bullet points:

  • SSP is a programmatic platform for automated inventory selling.
  • SSP is also used for yield optimization and inventory management.
  • SSP keeps your monetization activities under one roof.
  • SSP is based on an RTB auction.
  • SSP connects you to a multitude of demand sources at a time.
  • SSP features smart auto-optimization algorithms & detailed analytics.
  • SSP can be integrated with other ad tech tools, including DMPs and ad servers.
  • SSP provides data transparency previously unseen in ad networks.
  • SSP monitors user behavior on the website using pixels and fingerprints.
  • SSP supports both header bidding and RTB based on tags.

SSP vs. DSP vs. Ad Exchange

As mentioned above, SSPs work with other forms of ad tech. DSPs and ad exchanges are other key platforms in the process of programmatic buying and selling digital ads. But how do they all differ?

Demand-side platform Supply-side platform Ad exchange
Advertiser's tool for programmatic media buying Publisher's tool for programmatic media selling Digital marketplace, a middle link in programmatic

Ad Exchange vs. DSP

Ad exchanges need data on advertisers to know which bidders qualify for a publisher's website and match their audience. They pull this information from DSPs. In turn, a DSP is used by advertisers to let an ad exchange know what their bid is and what they have to offer.

Ad Exchange vs. SSP

SSPs are used to distribute publishers' inventory among ad exchanges. The ad exchange connects the publishers with the advertisers who want to bid on their inventory.

SSP vs. ad exchange vs. DSP

Benefits of a Supply-Side Platform for Publishers

Some of the main ways publishers can benefit from using an SSP include:

  • Access to a vast range of advertisers

SSPs can connect to multiple ad exchanges and DSPs. This allows publishers to reach far more potential advertisers in less time than while looking for partners directly.

  • Higher fill rates

Due to the high number of advertisers publishers can reach through their SSP, there is a much higher chance of inventory being filled. Less vacant spaces are better for the publishers' bottom line, and the SSPs optimization also helps ensure that spaces are sold for the best value.

  • Flexible price management

SSPs offer the flexibility for publishers to determine their floor price. Thus, advertisers won't be able to bid less than a set floor price, and therefore the slot will always be sold for the appropriate value.

  • Higher monetization revenues

Publishers can utilize header bidding, which always implies 1st-price RTB auctions. Here, the highest bidder pays the exact CPM of a bid, in contrast to the 2nd-price auction, where the winner pays a CPM $0.01 higher than the second bid. 1st-price auctions are way more beneficial for publishers and exclude the usage of bidding multipliers.

Common Features of Supply-Side Platforms

An SSP comes with a ton of nifty features that make publishers' lives easier. Some of the most critical include:

  • RTB bidder

RTB allows multiple advertisers to participate in auctions for ad spaces at the same time. Advertisers all put in their highest bid without seeing what other advertisers are bidding and the highest bidder wins.

  • Analytics and reporting

With an SSP, publishers can create and view reports regarding the performance of their ad inventory. The data includes things such as clicks, impressions, and more. This data can be used to show the success of their ad spaces and entice more advertisers to bid in the future.

  • Smart optimization

Optimization features of SSPs help to increase revenue for publishers. They can set floor prices, target fill rates, and maximize eCPMs.

  • Cross-device inventory management

Publishers can manage all inventory types with an SSP, such as display, video, and mobile. They can blacklist advertisers, block certain ad content types, and much more to help ensure their campaigns run smoothly.

What is a White-Label SSP?

A white label product is a product that is created by one company but intended for resale. Other brands can purchase it and rebrand as their own. For SSPs, this means that publishers can forego the cost and time of developing their SSP and buy a tried and tested product from an established ad tech company.

The main difference from a self-serve SSP: it eliminates all the hassle of using several SSPs, ad exchanges, and ad networks at a time. Publishers rely on different demand sources because this is how they try to increase fill rates on their inventory. A white-label SSP solves this problem.

the number of SSPs publishers use

How? A white-label SSP means publishers can get up and running their very own RTB platform, getting the full transparency and setting up their own demand sources in no time, with little training or investment. So instead of being torn between 5+ SSPs, you can gather all the DSPs you need in a single dashboard.

White-label SSPs often come with full support and onboarding to help you with inventory listing, DSP endpoint setups, and basic introduction into performance optimization.

white-label & self-serve DSP white-label & self-serve DSP

Using a White-Label Ad Server as an SSP

A white-label ad server is a full-stack ad serving platform for advertisers, publishers, and ad networks. It's a feature-rich solution that can be tailored to your business needs.

Publishers can quickly link their inventory to creatives, allowing them to monetize their sites and maximize revenue. Some ad servers, like Epom white-label solution, can be used as SSPs by publishers, adding their placements to the programmatic supply and connecting their inventory to custom DSP endpoints.

Benefits of DSP + White-Label Ad Server in a Bundle

For the most demanding publishers with specific needs, Epom offers a DSP + White-label Ad Server bundle.

A white-label DSP is a tool that is used by advertisers and networks who brought their programmatic in-house. For many brands, this presents the significant advantage of removing go-betweens in the transaction and allows them to bid on placements without markup.

Here's how an ad server and a white-label demand-side platform work together:

Ad server as an SSP

However, publishers can benefit from purchasing a white-label DSP as well, especially if they own some marketplace websites like Amazon or eBay. Advantages of buying a DSP + ad server bundle include:

Native Advertising Support

With full support, you can take care of your end customer by presenting user-friendly ads that organically fit with your brand content.

Targeting by Custom Parameters

It's possible to send custom targeting parameters from your ad server as an SSP to your white-label DSP. Thus, you let advertisers bid on search queries and keywords instead of using standard audience targeting.

Sophisticated Retargeting

Marketplaces might drive more traffic to their website through the advertiser's retargeting campaigns. They can run retargeting ads on other websites by connecting other SSPs as traffic sources and get extra profits by applying bid markups on these campaigns.

Direct + Programmatic Combined

Combining direct and programmatic means that you secure placements for the most credible partners. It's possible by creating advertisers in an ad server and running direct campaigns by linking the exact banner to the chosen placement. While the small advertisers can buy the remnants, competing in an RTB auction via your DSP.

Roles, Permissions, Advertiser Accounts

Every publisher can be a big boss of the system, having the Epom bundle under their belt. Create client accounts with restricted functionality from both supply and demand sides. Adjust custom permissions for each partner and enjoy them doing the most manual jobs by themselves.

An excellent supply-side platform should be a part of any successful publishers toolkit. It will help you to manage and simplify selling your ad inventory. Not only will it bring everything into one simple, user-friendly location, but it also enables you to customize and control what adverts are displayed on your site, keeping the bad ads out.

Interested in taking your inventory management to the next level?
Epom DSP + Ad Server white-label bundle could be the solution you are looking for.

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