In pursuit of creating a more efficient supply chain, predictions that SSPs have lost their relevance have been greatly exaggerated. Beyond being a conduit for programmatic transactions and aggregators of supply and demand, SSPs perform a crucial role in facilitating higher-quality transactions and performance for both publishers and advertisers, especially across growing channels such as retail media and CTV.
To understand why SSPs are still so vital in the ever-changing world of adtech, we need to examine the current state of the market, including the importance of competition and format specialism, and beyond this the growing centrality of data and targeting methods for the future of the industry. Let’s dive into how SSPs continue to retain their value in the supply chain.
1. SSPs drive market competition
While there are clear operational benefits to a consolidated tech stack, there are also some downsides. Crucially, using one platform alone limits publisher autonomy when it comes to revenue, as every decision about where that revenue comes from is influenced by a single party. Equally, a media buyer would find it hard to trust a verification provider that isn’t truly external and independent.
Allowing for multiple independent partners to operate across the same or similar adtech functions helps to keep healthy competition in the supply. In addition, if your much-relied-upon business is not guaranteed, partners will have a reason to avoid becoming complacent and ensure their roadmap is built around your needs.
Ultimately, a marketplace’s success depends on its ability to maximise the value available between buyers and sellers. When real competition vanishes, the transacting parties are missing out on the strengths of each player in the supply chain.
2. Format specialism supports buyer-centric decisions
Consolidation has rendered many format-specific platforms redundant, particularly among DSPs. On the other hand, SSP specialisation has continued to provide value for both sides of the market. The multiple native ad platforms that continue to remain relevant in the current economic climate thanks to their unique creative capabilities are an example.
This is, in large part, due to how SSPs’ commercial strategies for specific formats influence their product investment and offerings. In the CTV space, the SSPs that are experiencing the most success are those that have adapted their product roadmap to the ways in which TV sales teams negotiate and activate deals, thereby continuing to provide value beyond making inventory available to buyers. Some SSPs are committed to maintaining specialism after mergers, opting to keep their CTV solutions as a standalone offering. Ultimately, buyers are interested in media and ad formats; being closer to the supply-side dynamics and at the heart of specific formats enables SSPs to facilitate buyer-centric decisions. This closeness to supply-side dynamics also makes SSPs far better positioned to provide brands and retailers with the insights required to flourish in retail media, opening up additional advertising opportunities for marketers.
3. Access to data means curated inventory
One of the core functions of an SSP is to present the best inventory to advertisers as a way of optimising yield for publishers. Central to this role is the capability of dealing with a much larger scale and granularity of data than any other platform. Furthermore, SSPs can filter through data according to brands’ targeting parameters much more readily than DSPs.
It’s an indisputable fact that advertisers want to know as much as possible about the inventory they are buying; thanks to their data capabilities most SSPs already offer various types of reporting and targeting based on genre, title, and other descriptors – based on protocol such as OpenRTB 2.6 – while DSPs remain behind the curve. As SSPs serve the publishers’ best interest, they will continue to play a major role in curation and ad packages for buyers.
That said, it is SSPs’ ability to curate inventory that helps smaller DSPs with fewer resources compete against larger platforms, ensuring the marketplace stays competitive for advertisers.
4. SSPs stand strong at the intersection of audience and inventory
As privacy regulations drive publisher-led first-party data strategies and the renaissance of contextual targeting, SSPs are in a strong position to provide targeting and packaging solutions based on audience and contextual data aggregated across a wide pool of supply. Currently DSPs don’t pay enough attention to these signals. This is largely because the way DSPs have developed over time has been about the ability to reach specific audience segments based on their targeting capabilities rather than connecting the dots between audiences and publisher inventory. The innovation of SSPs over the next 10 years will be framing the audience in the context of inventory; again reinforcing their relevance for increasing audience addressability.
Though it’s true that SSPs have focussed on providing scale and aggregation over the last decade their value proposition has evolved alongside the industry. By supporting market competitiveness, format specialism across emerging channels, curated inventory and data capabilities, SSPs are in fact meeting the buy side SPO needs.
Managing Director, Demand International, TripleLift