Thought Leadership

SPO Playbook: How to Achieve Better Buyer Outcomes with Supply Path Optimization

October 31, 2019
By Anna Hewitt

Marketers owe it to themselves to take a fresh look.

What used to be ‘the smart supply strategy’ just a few short years ago is now, in many ways, a liability for marketers. Purchasing inventory from dozens of Exchanges no longer makes sense in today’s programmatic environment.

In fact, sticking with that old strategy runs the risk of hurting campaign performance and business growth. Buyers would be well served to take a fresh look at their supply approach in order to achieve greater control and better outcomes. They are embracing Supply Path Optimization (SPO) as a foundational component of a modern supply strategy.

What is SPO?

Dramatic changes in supply dynamics are forcing marketers to reassess their supply strategy. The rapid rise of header bidding has, on the one hand, greatly expanded buyer access to inventory. On the other hand, it has created an explosion in duplicative buying paths that often erode buying power. In addition, it has elevated the importance for buyers to work closely with strong Exchange partners to leverage their advanced tools and technologies in order to capitalize on these new supply dynamics.

SPO is a powerful way for buyers to control their buying paths and strengthen their supply relationships. The goal of SPO is for buyers to access the inventory that matters most to them – consolidating around the buying paths that are low cost and transparent.

“How does one tackle SPO?”

Supply Path Optimization to achieve Better buyer outcomes, 2. Define SPO criteria and establish a plan, 3. Consolidation to key exchanges, 4. Optimization for curation, products, and services

The SPO Playbook helps buyers optimize their supply chains through three primary steps.

To demystify the process for buyers, Rubicon Project created The SPO Playbook. It breaks the SPO journey down into its three primary steps:

Step 1: Blend SPO into Your Supply Approach

Buyers will assess their supply partners and prepare to consolidate their buying around a key set of exchanges. By crafting SPO criteria that represents what’s most important to their business, buyers can evaluate their exchange partners in a structured way.

Buyers should also create a game plan to ensure their organization fully adopts their refreshed supply plan. At this point, they’re ready to proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Consolidate to Key Exchanges

Buyers will incrementally consolidate buying onto their five Key Exchanges: those who matter most to their business. By leveraging the SPO criteria created in step 1, buyers can make these consolidation decisions systematically, with due diligence.

Each step along the way, buyers should validate delivery and performance goals until buying is fully migrated to their five Key Exchanges. Ensuring internal adoption of the new supply approach going forward will be critical before moving to the final step.

Step 3: Partner and Optimize with Key Exchanges

After consolidating buying onto Key Exchanges, buyers will deepen partnerships and tackle deeper optimizations within each Exchange for better marketing outcomes.

A natural place for buyers to start is to leverage existing Exchange products and services, such as transparent log reporting, bid shading, media planning, and innovative PMP executions.

More advanced optimizations for further performance lift will take the shape of deeper inventory curation and the launch of joint programs with your Key Exchange partners.

Getting Started

If the idea of consolidating exchange partners seems counterintuitive, that might be an outdated supply plan talking. SPO enables buyers to access the inventory that matters most to their business. Buyers can flip the challenges posed by the new supply dynamics into opportunities for better marketing outcomes.

Rubicon Project is happy to help. Please contact us to schedule a full review of The SPO Playbook and a deeper consultation on your SPO needs. And stay tuned for future articles covering the important topic of Supply Path Optimization.


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