Advertising Guest Columns
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Publishers need to look beyond the SSP and think end-to-end

The digital media marketplace of the future will be built on strong, transparent relationships throughout the ecosystem. Prompted by new data privacy laws, plus new restrictions on the use of third-party cookies and other personal ID signals, publishers are increasingly shifting from third-party data to forms of first-party data to help nurture relationships with advertisers and consumers.

For the past two years, publishers have been hyper-focused on first-party data: how to build it; how best to monetize it and how to expose it to other parties in the ecosystem. Essentially looking at ways to build new revenue streams that will help secure the future of publishers beyond the demise of third-party cookies.

Shifting beyond the SSP

Traditionally, major publishers have employed a range of supply-side platforms (SSPs) to organize their inventory into particular ad ‘slots’ and deals, whereas advertisers can use demand-side platforms (DSPs) to coordinate and execute their creatives and campaigns.

SSPs and DSPs are typically individual companies specializing in either the sell-or demand-side of the business. However, with publishers often working with several SSPs, supply chains have become fragmented and opaque, severing the buy and sell sides of the industry. 

Against the background of cookie deprecation and heightened data privacy concerns, the siloed approach to SSPs becomes less appealing to publishers. This fragmentation leads to a lack of oversight and fee transparency, resulting in difficulties with brand safety, privacy and audience targeting. The larger the number of parties involved in a transaction, the greater the chance of hard-earned first-party data leaking beyond the owner’s intended boundaries.

Given the new importance of first-party data, this fragmentation makes it harder to run effective campaigns. In fact, it’s reasonable to say that the usefulness of first-party data relies on close partnerships. In response, publishers need to follow the buy-side move towards greater transparency and look beyond SSPs and towards platforms that provide direct access to quality advertisers.

Moving to a platform first model

One solution to the fragmentation issue is for publishers to meet their buyers via an end-to-end ad tech platform. End-to-end platforms offer both SSP and DSP functionality.

From a data privacy perspective, end-to-end platforms have a clear advantage. Platforms that connect buyers to sellers directly offer peace of mind as the first-party data of both a publisher and advertiser can be closely managed. Using one platform provides users with access to high-quality data and far greater control over partnerships between advertisers, agencies and publishers. Data can be used safely and in compliance with regulations, providing as much campaign oversight as possible.

In 2022 publishers need to understand what exactly has been happening in the gap between the DSP and SSP and then look at what elements they want to regain control over. End-to-end platforms designed to unify the buy and sell-side into one marketplace can help to optimize this process.

Brand advertisers and their agencies are becoming a lot savvier about optimizing their supply chain and publishers are proactively exploring the ways they can leverage the highly valued rich user data at their disposal. That data is arguably the single greatest asset publishers have right now.

A question of choice

Although an end-to-end platform offers some clear advantages to players wanting to exert more control, the programmatic ecosystem has never been more important in supporting and developing the open internet. Any end-to-end platform that wants to facilitate the privacy-first movement must incorporate choice for publishers and advertisers into everything they do. Rather than just another ‘walled garden’, an end-to-end platform should offer publishers access to a carefully curated marketplace of high-quality brand advertisers, with enough flexibility built-in to develop tailored deals and closer direct relationships with a diverse range of media.

The move to an end-to-end platform may seem daunting to some publishers. Fortunately, end-to-end platforms typically employ consultants who provide their publisher clients with guidance and support. They follow the entire trajectory of an ad; from request to render. They understand the practices and expectations of publishers around how users’ data should be protected, but also understand the needs of advertisers striving to increase the return on their investments.

The digital marketing industry is undergoing a seismic shift that provides publishers with a unique opportunity to strengthen their position in the ecosystem. Making the most of that opportunity will require publishers to take greater control of their ad sales and extend their vision beyond the parameters of their SSPs.

Anne Claire Chenu
Senior Commercial Director, Xandr

Part of Microsoft, Xandr powers a global marketplace for premium advertising. Its data-enabled technology platform, encompassing Xandr Invest and Xandr Monetize, optimizes return on investment for both buyers and sellers.