Thought Leadership

SPO Playbook: How to Tackle SPO

December 4, 2019
By Anna Hewitt

This is the third in a series of articles on Supply Path Optimization (SPO). 

Part one: How to Achieve Better Buyer Outcomes with Supply Path Optimization

Part two: Why Supply Path Optimization Matters

Getting Started 

Getting started with Supply Path Optimization (SPO) can, at times, feel challenging for buyers. It’s why Rubicon Project created the SPO Playbook – to demystify the process and give buyers a practical guide to chart a successful SPO journey. The good news is that SPO does not have to be one of your unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions in 2020.

Success with SPO involves making choices – important decisions such as which exchanges to keep and which to cut. To make SPO real for your business, we recommend you break it down into bite-sized pieces and tackle it in phases: 1) Plan; 2) Consolidate; and 3) Partner. This approach allows you to focus on the SPO decisions that really matter. 

Planning Phase 

Important initiatives – SPO included –  deserve a plan. An effective SPO plan will be closely aligned with your existing supply strategy and fit with modern programmatic supply dynamics. The foundation of a strong SPO plan is built upon creating: a) relevant SPO criteria; and b) a tangible adoption plan for your team.

Craft SPO Selection Criteria 

SPO criteria are the benchmarks used to make your exchange consolidation and optimization decisions. While each buyer’s criteria will be unique to their specific business, there are general categories of criteria that can help you frame your approach:  

  • Inventory access includes dimensions of scale, top publisher coverage, and capabilities for inventory curation or prioritized access
  • Transparency criteria include fees, auction mechanics, and inventory quality. Trusted and transparent exchange relationships have become table stakes for buyers to extract the full value from their partnerships, while insufficient transparency is often grounds for cutting an exchange.  
  • Partnership criteria enable buyers to answer critical questions about exchange partners: Do they demonstrate the willingness and ability to deeply partner with you? Can they deliver innovative solutions that advance your priorities? Do they offer buyer services that make their supply more effective? 

It’s tempting to overload your list of criteria. We recommend you don’t overcomplicate it. Focus in on the key criteria that are most important to your business. 

Establish an Adoption Game Plan

You’ll be well-served to establish a game plan for getting your organization to adopt your SPO approach. Most importantly, they should understand that the days of ‘select all’ exchanges are over. The team’s path to more buying power means leveraging your 5-6 key exchanges. 

Consolidation Phase 

The process of consolidating exchanges brings clarity to a buyer’s supply chain. We’ve seen them incrementally narrow their buying onto 5-6 key exchanges. It’s likely that tackling the initial rounds of consolidation will feel straightforward. Completing the final round will require the most scrutiny as you select the exchanges that have the strongest fit with your SPO criteria.

The actual process of consolidation can, initially, feel intimidating. But undertaking it in a controlled fashion will instill confidence in your approach and in the results you achieve. Incrementally trimming exchanges, while monitoring performance and delivery, will allow you to successfully consolidate around the 5-6 key exchanges that matter most to your business. 

Partnership Phase

With SPO, buyers are smart to shift their thinking: to view exchanges as strategic partners and not simple pipes to supply. Consolidating your buying onto those 5-6 key exchanges enables you to fully optimize your buying paths and deepen your supply partnerships.  

Consolidation paves the way for you to: maximize your working media through fewer paths that offer more buying power; fully leverage each exchange’s low fees and differentiated technologies; and explore more impactful inventory curation strategies. And, as you capitalize on these exchange capabilities, you’ll be in a better position to extract even more buying power by implementing performance-based allocation of campaign budgets. 

Further the impact of SPO by collaborating more deeply with your key exchange partners – yielding new opportunities for performance and operational improvements. Share joint priorities and roadmaps, and develop products and preferred programs that advance your business outcomes. Partnering strategically with exchanges allows buyers to unlock the full potential of SPO. 

Get Ready, Get Set, Go 

Implementing SPO is a very worthy New Year’s resolution. While the SPO journey involves a number of steps, tackling it in phases and staying focused on the decisions that really matter are key to making SPO achievable. Embrace its nuances but don’t over-complicate it. Invest in the planning, embrace consolidation, and deepen your exchange partnerships. You’ll earn the buying power that you and your advertisers deserve.  

Rubicon Project would be pleased to assist you in your SPO journey. Please contact us to schedule a full review of the SPO Playbook and a deeper consultation on your SPO needs.


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