Arvind Kesh

Contributing Writer |

5 min read

What is a Supply-Side Platform and How to Choose One

A supply-side platform (SSP) is a software technology that allows publishers to sell ad space via an intermediary platform called ad exchange. It is a publisher’s equivalent to a demand-side platform (DSP). It is a basic building block of programmatic advertising along with DSPs and ad exchanges.

What is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic advertising is the most popular way to buy and sell ads these days. It uses machine learning and automation to make transactions smooth and fast. There are primarily two types of programmatic advertising.:

Programmatic RTB: RTB refers to real-time bidding. Publishers use their SSP to specify the kind of ad inventory available. Advertisers use DSPs to find suitable ad inventory among many SSPs and ad exchanges to place their bids on. Just before a new user lands on a page, while it’s loading, the highest bidder is awarded the ad space. In this case, each ad impression is sold in real time.

Programmatic Direct: Here, advertisers purchase guaranteed ad space beforehand. Though everything is automated, it is a bit more manual than RTB, especially in the early stages.

If you want to learn more about programmatic advertising, check out the guide here.

How does a Supply-Side Platform work?

Supply-side platforms connect publishers’ ad inventory to multiple ad exchanges, networks, and DSPs. The idea is to get exposure to as many advertisers as possible in order to get the best rates.

They help publishers share their audience data (like demographics, age, interests) on an ad-impression level. If this information matches the criteria set by advertisers, their demand-side platform will bid for the particular ad impression, and the highest bidder is chosen by the SSP.

SSPs also give publishers more control over their inventory. This is by allowing them to set a minimum price for their ad inventory and also by giving them the power to decide which advertiser can and cannot buy their ad space.

Thanks to the popularity of programmatic advertising, there are many SSPs in the market. As you can see, 86.2% of all digital display spend will be programmatic by 2020.

Programmatic display spend

It can be overwhelming to choose the right SSP. Many specialize in certain geographical locations, ad types, and much more.

For example, if your audience is the Chinese market, an SSP like Mobvista is ideal. And if you’re looking to sell native ads that target Europe or Asia, Glispa is a great choice.

How do you Choose the right Supply-Side Platform?

Choosing the wrong SSP can impact your business in many ways. Apart from losing revenue, the wrong choice could even harm your brand. Ask the following questions before you commit to any SSP.

Does the company really own the platform?

Building a supply-side platform can be time-consuming and expensive. There are many companies that play middlemen by white labeling SSPs built by other companies. As a publisher, depending on such companies can be very risky. The market keeps on changing. Because you are involved with data, there are many risks involved. You need to choose an SSP that keeps updating itself based on the fluctuations. For this, it’s best to make sure the company you’ve chosen owns the platform.

Does the SSP have integrations with brand safety tools?

There are many threats publishers face when giving out their ad space to random bidders. Some ads might mimic site navigations, while others might serve up an outright negative experience to your audience. Your SSP should have inherent features to block such advertisers or should be easily integrated with tools that offer such protective measures.

What is the geographical strength of the SSP?

While all SSPs want to be global, this is rarely the case. In programmatic advertising, it’s very important to have an SSP that is strong in areas where your impressions come from. Largely, this a U.S. vs. non-U.S. scenario. Make sure you are super clear as to where most of your audience is coming from.

What kind of features are available?

All SSPs will have the “open exchange” feature, which allows everyone to bid on your ad inventory. But if you want more features, it’s better that you inquire beforehand. For example, features like “private exchanges,” where certain advertisers get access to ad inventory before the public for a higher price, are great options to boost revenue.

How easy is it to use?

It’s true that, with practice, any platform can eventually become easy to use. But in programmatic advertising, even a small operation might require you to work with multiple interfaces to collect data and whatnot. You don’t want a platform that adds complexity. The best way to understand the ease of use is by checking out the platform yourself.

Do they have 24/7 Support?

A reliable supply-side platform always comes with great support. You need to check if the provider offers 24/7 support; things can go wrong at any time. You need to have access to a support system that is responsive and capable of resolving technical issues that may arise. The best way to know this is by checking review sites like G2 Crowd.

Supply-Side Platforms You Need to Check Out First

There are many SSPs to choose from. Here are a few examples you should consider first before you start hunting for more.


Ad Format: Video, Native, Display
Top Location: Global


Pubmatic is one of the leaders in the SSP space and has come out with a cloud version this year so that companies can take programmatic advertising in-house. Their SSP gives access to 200+ DSP platforms.


Ad Format: Video, Native
Top Location: Global


Appnexus is a popular SSP which is great for video advertising. It gives you complete control over your inventory and gives access to all major ad exchanges in the world.

Rubicon Project

Ad Format: Display, Video
Top Location: Global

Rubicon Project

Rubicon Project is another top SSP provider that’s worth checking out. It’s been regarded as one of the market leaders by many industry-publications.

Open X

Ad Format: Display (mobile), Video
Top Location: Global

OpenX is great for mobile publishers. They already provide 900+ premium app publishers access to 11,000+ advertisers and 135+ DSPs.

Google Ad Manager

Ad Format: Native, Display
Top Location: Global

Google Ad Manager

The Google Ad Manager contains what is formerly known as DoubleClick for publishers. It is one of the best SSPs with a worldwide reach. While there is width, in terms of location, you need to determine whether there is enough depth.


Ad Format: Banner, Rich Media
Top Location: USA


MoPub is an SSP owned by Twitter. It specializes in mobile ads and is known for great cross-promotion via apps.


Ad Format: Native, Banner, Full Screen, Video
Location: Asia


Mobvista is one of the leading SSPs in the Asian market, particularly China. They offer 24/7 support and are regarded as market leaders. They are most suitable for app developers looking to monetize their apps.


Ad Format: Native, Custom
Top Locations: Asia, Europe


Glispa acquired Avocarrot which was one of the best SSPs to sell native ads. They also specialize in mobile ads. It is a self-serve platform, meaning you get full control to optimize and test in order to gain maximum revenue.

These are just a few of the top supply-side platforms in the market. If you are new to programmatic advertising, it’s a good idea to analyze what kind of advertisers buy ad inventory from your competitors. Check out our free tool to get a sneak peek!

Arvind Kesh

Contributing Writer |


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