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Choosing the Right SSP for Your Digital Out-of-Home Network

Eric Lamb, VP of Publisher Solutions, Vistar Media
Eric Lamb, VP of Publisher Solutions, Vistar Media

Eric Lamb, VP of Publisher Solutions, Vistar Media

While programmatic advertising has been growing rapidly for more than 10 years, only recently has the digital out-of-home (DOOH) industry leaned in to the potential of programmatic technology. For the first time, DOOH media owners are hiring resources to build and sell programmatic offerings. At the same time, most media owners are also looking for “Supply Side Platforms” (SSPs) to gain access to the programmatic advertising ecosystem.

As the opportunity grows, so does the list of potential technology players – and sifting through all of these options can be daunting to say the least.

As a media owner...

- How should you choose an SSP?
- What are the questions you should be asking?
- And what is the real revenue opportunity for your network?

In this article, I’m going to outline the main boxes to check when evaluating an SSP, and ultimately taking your first leap into programmatic.

What’s an SSP?

In order to evaluate SSPs, you first need to know what they are! Every programmatic marketplace consists of buyers who log into demand side platforms (DSPs) and sellers (publishers, media owners, etc.) who log into supply side platforms (SSPs).

A DSP allows buyers to active campaigns targeting inventory based on their desired criteria (e.g. geography, time, audience). For each campaign, buyers will set bids determining how much they are willing to spend for the inventory.
On the other side of the marketplace, sellers use an SSP to control which inventory they want to make available to which buyers, and how much they want to charge for it.

  It’s tempting to look at an SSP as just a pipe to revenue. However, because DOOH is an emerging programmatic channel, simply connecting the pipes is not enough. You’ll want to look for an SSP with the functionality, team, and demand partners to reach your goals 

Without SSPs, sellers would need to integrate with DSPs individually. For most DSPs, this is not an option. DSPs prefer the scale they get from having a handful (or less) of SSP integrations that provide aggregated access to all supply.

Considerations When Choosing an SSP Partner

So now you know what an SSP does and why it’s important. Next, you’ll want to think through a few critical questions:

What are you looking to achieve?

Before taking the leap into programmatic, it’s important to assess your goals. Are you hoping to create a passive revenue stream with minimal overhead? Alternatively, are you looking to hire a sales team to go after larger programmatic budgets?

Either way, you should have realistic expectations. In the online world, programmatic advertising can fully support a website or mobile app. This is not the reality for DOOH media. Programmatic advertising can provide a significant revenue stream for your network, but on its own, it will not support your business. If an SSP tells you otherwise, they probably aren’t being honest.

What are table stakes features and services for my business?

Any SSP worth its salt will have basic functionality and services that help you maximize your investment. Let’s walk through some of the main things to look for:

1. Programmatic transaction types: Most SSPs will support the following transaction types to varying degrees:

a. Exchange: an auction where multiple buyers can bid on your inventory. Buyers leveraging an exchange are buying across many media owners at scale, and are not cherry picking individual media owners or screens. Exchange buys are great for generating passive revenue and still make up a majority of the spend in the programmatic DOOH space today.

b. Private Marketplace (PMP): a fixed price or biddable auction where the publisher curates specific inventory and makes it available to buyers at a specific price. Generating revenue from PMPs requires sales effort on your part, but the buyer will actually carve out a portion of their budget for your inventory. In return, you are providing prioritized, transparent access to your inventory.

c. Programmatic Guaranteed: a fixed price deal at a specific price. The publisher makes a defined set of inventory available to a buyer who agrees to buy a certain amount of impressions. This is different from exchange and PMP transactions, where the publisher is not guaranteed any budget amount from the buyer.

2. Inventory control: Adding your inventory to an SSP should never mean relinquishing control. You need to make sure that the SSP provides ways for you to protect your existing business. Here are a few of the common approaches SSPs take:

a. Floor pricing: All SSPs should allow you to set CPM floors (the minimum price you’ll accept for your inventory). These floors can typically set network wide or on individual screens.

b. Creative approval: You probably want to look at creatives before they run on your network. Make sure your SSP has an automated way for you to review and approve creatives, as opposed to sending creatives over email. Nothing should need to happen outside of your SSP of choice.

c. Category and advertiser restrictions: You may want to prevent certain advertisers or categories from running on your network or on certain screens. It should be easy to manage these restrictions within your SSP’s user interface.

3. Support: Don’t overlook support! You need to make sure the SSP has a team dedicated to supporting DOOH publishers. Will the SSP provide an account manager, training, sales enablement through buyer introductions and engineering level tech support? If not, you should look elsewhere.

What is the true opportunity for your inventory if added to the SSP?

When it comes to revenue, all SSPs are not created equal. Typically, SSPs will advertise the number of DSP connections they have in place, implying that more logos equals more revenue opportunity. In the programmatic DOOH space, DSP connections alone do not equal revenue! You need to make sure that the SSP has DSP partners who are actually pushing significant budgets towards DOOH. A DOOH SSP should be able to give you an estimate of passive exchange revenue for your first 12 months on the platform. You can also ask for references if you want to make another check.

To this point I’ve covered some of the main things to think about when you’re looking to enter the programmatic DOOH ecosystem. It’s tempting to look at an SSP as just a pipe to revenue. However, because DOOH is an emerging programmatic channel, simply connecting the pipes is not enough. You’ll want to look for an SSP with the functionality, team, and demand partners to reach your goals. To learn more about Vistar Media’s digital out-of-home solutions for media owners visit us at vistarmedia.com.

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