Rebranding the SSP: How the industry is writing a new definition

Published in Advertising Week by Tom Jenen, CRO at Onetag.

In a perfect world, marketers would buy inventory from all the world’s publishers directly, smoothly and frictionlessly. They would pay the publishers a huge amount of money to reach just the right audiences, and beat all their performance goals in return. The birds would be chirping and all would be right with the world. 

Instead, while the birds are indeed chirping in this Northern Hemisphere springtime, all is not right with the world. The search for frictionless transactions from all the world’s inventory, from just the right audiences (while arguably paying publishers more than ever) has hit some bumps. Yahoo is shutting down its supply-side platform (SSP), while SSP EMX Digital’s owner, Big Village Media, is filing for bankruptcy. Fraudulent and non-viewable impressions are a constant worry. And the industry continues to grapple with numerous data privacy challenges, not least cookie deprecation, which pushes the dream of 1:1 audience targeting further away than ever. And buyers have employed Supply Path Optimization strategies to winnow down the non-value-add SSPs.

To make matters worse, the de facto industry-standard DSP-SSP combinations are fracturing. Driven by huge public companies, with their huge and public quarterly revenue growth expectations, both sides are creeping into the others’ domains. The Trade Desk’s OpenPath seeks publisher-direct connections, bypassing the SSP, while curation teams from Xandr, Magnite and other SSPs are trying to win campaigns from agencies and marketers directly. Rather than innovate and solve some of the tough industry problems, they’re simply trying to carve market share from each other, like the big GAFA platforms do.

Redefine the SSP and Seize the Opportunity

In the face of these changes, SSPs in particular have had to do a better job of communicating their value and justify their cut. And that underlines a sizable opportunity to innovate, and for the new wave of agile, innovative SSPs to demonstrate their worth. In short, redefining the role of SSPs going forward. 

SSPs have an opportunity to add value to publishers, helping them to monetise their cookieless audiences. And according to ID5’s 2022 State of Digital Identity Report, between cookieless browsers and people refusing third-party cookies, 50% of global traffic is already unaddressable with traditional identifiers. This challenge is only set to grow.

Naturally, advertisers want clearer, simpler, faster paths to media and to have more of their budget spent on “working media”, or buying publisher inventory. They demand more direct connections and less reselling, affording greater transparency of publisher inventory.  In turn, publishers want to maximise their revenue. This has driven both sides to discuss the situation with their partners in the middle and work more closely together to streamline the supply chain and reduce waste.

Deliver what partners need

Agile SSPs that have recognized the changing ad landscape, invested in their technology and evolved their offering are powering this shift. They are defining the new generation of non-traditional supply-side partners. This new breed understands a publisher’s needs, and communicates this to demand-side platforms (DSPs) in a transparent, efficient and effective manner. 

The need to achieve sustainability is shaping the new generation of SSPs too. Platforms that enable the rationalisation of the ecosystem will in turn help to reduce carbon emissions. This can be achieved through SSPs that deliver information and performance directly to a DSP, thus tightening the supply chain and reducing the number of hops.  

Tap into technology

Yahoo’s self-serve SSP was believed to be lacking in automation and ease of use. The SSPs writing the future of adtech and driving a dynamic programmatic ecosystem will be those that harness technology and leverage data science to automate the right supply for demand partners. But these platforms must also be easy to implement and operate, with customer service that ensures a slick supply and demand.

The reputation of SSPs has taken a battering in recent months, leading some to question their validity in future. But the demise of Yahoo’s SSP and EMX Digital should be seen as a changing of the guard, heralding the arrival of a new breed of SSPs.

Demand, after all, is clear: the global SSP market is expected to grow from USD$3.59 Billion in 2022 to USD$66 Billion by 2033, at a CAGR of 12% from 2023 to 2033.

Publishers and marketers are right to ask more from their supply-side partners. And SSPs that embrace technology to deliver quality over quantity will forge a more efficient supply chain, delivering on partner objectives while ensuring privacy and reducing their environmental impact.  The SSP industry is being redefined, for the better.

About Onetag

Onetag is a global, non-traditional SSP that provides incremental revenue for publishers and better campaign performance for advertisers.

Unlike most SSPs, Onetag offers a streamlined platform that more efficiently matches buyers and sellers across all performance campaigns. With the simplest integration, our high-performing algorithms automatically curate packages of premium publisher inventory for brands and agencies.