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Programmatic Explained: How SSPs Work

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In our previous blog about the world of ad tech, we explained the role of demand-side platforms and identified how they helped advertisers find their target audience. But DSPs only represent one side of the programmatic equation. Supply-side platforms, or SSPs, represent the other side, leveraging machine learning to help game and app publishers manage their ad inventories.

Why SSPs Matter to Publishers

SSPs make the ad market simpler for publishers by combining bids from many sources. The programmatic marketplace is dominating ad mediation, in particular waterfalls — programs that sort ad networks by order of priority. Since waterfalls usually consider factors other than performance, they’re ultimately less efficient and take longer to execute than a well-run SSP. (Keep in mind, however, that most large publishers still find uses for mediation.)

The publisher provides hard data on users and sessions, which helps the SSP match inventory to bids and perform deeper analyses of traffic. Leah Brite, Director of Product Marketing at SpotX, a video-oriented SSP, explains: “We work hand-in-hand with publishers to surface the data points about buyers, which makes their inventories more appealing to advertisers and DSPs. We’ve built several data enablement products to ensure advertisers get the audiences they seek, while also giving publishers control over their data to eliminate data leakage concerns.”

Leah Brite is Director of Product Marketing at SpotX, a video-oriented SSP.

How Publishers Can Attract Quality SSPs

“Buyers are more likely to bid on impressions if they are familiar with the end user the impression opportunity is available for,” Brite says. “Ensure that you have a strong audience overlap with your sell- and buy-side partners to increase the attractiveness of the impression.”

SSPs value a publisher’s inventory based on three factors — volume of traffic, app content, and data-based brand safety metrics. “When evaluating a publisher, ad servers and SSPs are going to be looking at a variety of data points; the importance of each will vary from company to company,” Brite says. “These partners will likely assess the quality of the content on the site and the data points about the impression opportunity that a publisher collects and is willing to pass to the ad server and/or SSP. Partners will also assess the volume of traffic that the publisher plans to send to its partner and performance brand safety metrics including viewability, audibility and fraud.”

Along with ensuring that users can clearly see and hear ads, publishers also need safeguards against fraud, like actively blacklisting suspicious IPs and monitoring Time-To-Install (TTI) anomalies.

Brite adds, “A mobile app will be more attractive to prospective ad servers and SSPs if the publisher can provide higher quality of the content, send more data points, generate higher volume of traffic and lower the instances of fraud.”

How SSPs Combat Data Leakage & Fraud

Finally, like everyone else in the ad stack, SSPs love data. The typical data sent from publishers to SSPs includes demographic and intent segments. To stand out, Brite advises sending more specialized data points that buyers are unable to access elsewhere. However, publishers need to safeguard against sharing with the wrong partners.

“Some buyers will bid on impressions they have no intention of winning, allowing them access to the publisher’s data,” Brite says. “They then create their own lookalike models using third-party data vendors and target the same audience on other properties with lower CPMs, which ultimately devalues the publisher’s inventory. To combat this, publishers should make sure they ask partners what strategies they employ to help limit data leakage on their behalf.”

Brite adds, “While we hold publishers accountable for traffic quality issues, we believe everybody, including SpotX, has a role to play in eliminating ad fraud and quality issues within the industry. We take a multi-prong approach to ensure we can identify and eliminate fraud. We use pre-bid avoidance technology not only to exclude non-human and data center traffic, but to also exclude other high-risk ad requests.”

SSPs in Developing Countries

One of the strongest trends in mobile gaming is growth in developing countries such as India and Latin American or Southeast Asian markets. These new users often don’t pay for in-app purchases, so developers in these markets are turning to ads instead — a result that suits SSPs like SpotX. Brite predicts that advertisers will increasingly flock to these regions, increasing revenue for ad-monetized developers in the coming years.

One of the strongest trends in mobile gaming is growth in developing countries such as India.

“Both regions are seeing strong year over year growth in smartphone penetration, making this an attractive market for advertisers,” Brite says. “There is no doubt that the opportunity to appeal to a new segment of the population is there, and we are already seeing advertisers respond accordingly.”

Working on different sides of the same coin, DSPs and SSPs contribute much to making programmatic a more efficient, safer space for advertisers and publishers alike.