Thought Leadership

Why You Should Meet with your SSP

November 7, 2018
By Kristin Kosglow, Director of Sales, Rubicon Project

In the old days, working with SSPs was relatively straightforward. Buyers would choose SSPs based on their priority access or exclusive relationships. There was a limited number to assess and sort through. This, of course, has all changed.

With the rise of header bidding, there’s been an explosion of ad requests and SSPs. With so many sellers flooding the ecosystem, it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to choosing quality partners. In this new header world, the days of SSPs jockeying for a position at the top of the waterfall are over. Instead, the majority of publishers pull from the same SSP bullpen of players. Since the same SSPs are routinely used, these SSPs have a greater hand in shaping pricing models and best practices.

Meanwhile, with more ad dollars transacting programmatically, it’s more important than ever to understand how your SSP operates. This all necessitates a bigger conversation —  a literal one.

While this may be a novel concept, sitting down with your SSP can bring clarity, transparency and offer valuable insight into how your marketing dollars are being spent. Here’s why you should make time to sit down and talk shop.

Unique and Valuable Insights

The digital supply chain is dynamic and continually changing. Currently, there are several upheavals underway including the rise of first price auctions, ads.txt, and the sometimes non-transparent testing of new technology. Understanding how these trends affect the digital ad landscape can help marketers best optimize their ad spend investment.

Here, your SSP has access to a different set of data points than your DSP, as well as special insights that could be tremendously useful to your marketing strategy, i.e., understanding what key values are passed in the bid stream and how they can be leveraged. SSP’s can also shed light on new pricing strategies such as bid shading, in which buyers find the true market value for an impression, somewhere between a first and second price auction. It’s a feature to be aware of; some platforms are bid shading, and some are not. It’s certainly in the best interest of the buyer to understand what is happening under the hood.

Your SSP can also introduce you to new supply that could be of interest (Audio, Video, CTV, DOOH), various packages, ways to buy, and an array of other relevant intel regarding your programmatic strategy. As a third party exchange, Rubicon Project has visibility into all the moving parts of the supply chain, and we pride ourselves in using this information to help our partners make the most effective and informed decisions with their ad spend.

Transparency and Brand Safety

Header bidding puts a strain on DSPs: with a saturated digital ecosystem, they’re now processing more ad requests per second than ever before. To make more accurate decisions, the industry needs more transparency in pricing, data and auction dynamics. Only then can marketers, in good faith, put their money into the supply chain and trust their spend is driving value — as well as real human eyeballs to their content.

Here, it’s crucial to understand how your SSP works. As a buyer, basic questions you might ask your SSP are, “What’s your take rate percentage?” or “Do you use a first price or second price auction?”

At Rubicon Project, we share our bid shading algorithm with clients (EMR – free and complimentary to your DSP’s algorithm) which reduces CPMs while maintaining win rates. We also present opportunities to save ad dollars: our DSPs are all fully opted into EMR, which garners major savings for our clients.

Caveat Emptor: some SSPs insist on operating in a black box, claiming to have “proprietary wrappers.” Others may claim that they are unbiased with their publishers and inventory; meanwhile, they’re being run by first parties. If SSPs are withholding information from you regarding their practices, it’s a red flag.

Greater Outcomes with Fewer Partners

In a perfect world, buyers wouldn’t feel like they have to work with dozens of SSPs to optimize results: they could choose a few vetted SSPs and achieve maximum reach while protecting brand safety. It’s far better to buy from a few trusted partners and understand the intricacies of their business model than to feel the need to work with everyone. After all, no one wants to discover they’ve been buying re-packaged inventory or that they’ve been bidding on inventory with soft price floors. For the most part, major agencies and hold companies have figured this out, yet there are still bad actors out there.

Suffice to say: meet with your SSP. Best case scenario, you get a better grasp of where your money is going and how to optimize spend. Worst case, you save yourself from fraud. Rubicon remains committed to operating the highest quality (strict brand safety guidelines), most economical path to supply (low take rates equal more dollars spent on media), with industry-leading transparency.

For more information about our SSP partners here at Rubicon Project, please reach out to your account director or email us at We would love to hear from you.

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