In the early days of online advertising, publishers used ad networks to sell their remnant inventory to advertisers. However, as publishers started using more and more ad networks, it became harder to identify which ad network would sell the most inventory at the best price.
To solve this problem, a new type of AdTech platform emerged — network optimizers. Then, when real-time bidding (RTB) was introduced in the late 2000s, these network optimizers evolved into supply-side platforms (SSPs).
Let’s now take a closer look at the components and features that make up many of today’s supply-side platforms.
What Is a Supply-Side Platform (SSP)?
A supply-side platform (SSP) is an advertising technology (AdTech) platform that helps publishers monetize their websites and mobile apps by managing, selling and optimizing their available inventory (aka ad space). SSPs are a key player in real-time bidding (RTB) media transactions, whereby publishers sell display, video and native ad space to advertisers on an impression-by-impression basis.
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Components of a Supply-Side Platform
Backend and Infrastructure
In order for an SSP to provide its features to publishers and sell ad space, the various backend components need to be hosted on an infrastructure (e.g. Amazon Web Services). From there, they can carry out all the various technical processes that power the SSP’s features.
SSPs integrate with other AdTech platforms to facilitate the selling of inventory (for example with ad servers, DSPs, and ad exchanges) and with data-management platforms (DMPs) to maximize their revenue.
Read our post about how to integrate a DSP with an SSP/ad exchange.
An ad exchange orchestrates the buying and selling of ads between advertisers and publishers. Many SSPs now incorporate ad-exchange functionalities, meaning publishers can directly connect (via an SSP) to advertisers (via DSPs), rather than having to first connect to external ad exchanges.
Trackers collect data about the publisher’s website and its audience. It then sends this data to other components, such as the user-profile database and reporting database.
The reporting database receives campaign and audience data from the tracker, which allows publishers to generate reports and view campaign analytics (see Analytics and Reporting below).
Features of a Supply-Side Platform
The user interface is the screen that publishers use to manage campaigns, view reports, manage billing and use other features of the SSP.
Analytics and Reporting
Once data has been sent from the reporting database, publishers can create and view reports about the performance of their inventory, including fill rates, clicks and impressions.
Many SSPs incorporate header-bidding functionality, allowing publishers to obtain bids from multiple demand sources (e.g. DSPs) before their ad server is called. The header-bidding feature of an SSP enables publishers to manage their various header-bidding wrappers and demand partners.
Read our previous post about header bidding to learn more.
The yield-optimization feature of a supply-side platform aims to increase revenue for publishers by improving fill rates, setting floor prices and managing auction mechanics (e.g. first- and second-price auctions).
Inventory and Campaign Management
This feature allows publishers to manage different types of inventory (display, video, native, etc.), blacklist and whitelist advertisers, set IAB categories and block certain types of ads.