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Better CTV Auctions: The Argument For Engaging Multiple SSPs

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As supply-path optimization (SPO) becomes the rallying cry of our entire industry, the complexity of the CTV landscape is in the spotlight. Calls are growing louder for publishers to dramatically slash the number of SSPs included in their unified auctions. A more centralized approach with fewer SSPs, these folks argue, will bring clarity and efficiency that will draw buyers. But this view oversimplifies the situation.

In a unified auction setting, a monopolistic infrastructure yields poor outcomes for publishers by reducing the density of their auctions and narrowing the scope of their agency relationships.

This self-inflicted handicap will only further hamper publishers’ ability to maximize their return on ad inventory, and in some cases it may even lead to poor UX for the viewer.

Yet, publishers must also avoid veering toward a “more-is-more” strategy where auction bids from dozens of SSPs needlessly hike up a publisher’s carbon footprint with unsustainable queries per second (QPS) loads. In the absence of meaningful oversight of server-related carbon emissions, the onus is on CTV leaders to factor these environmental considerations into their overall strategy.

The bottom line: It’s all about balance. Publishers need to make connections with multiple SSPs while remaining thoughtful about their environmental impact.

It’s a tough needle to thread, but with the right unified auction partner, platforms can cultivate productive, revenue-boosting auctions without spreading their inventory thin over an excessive number of SSPs.

The importance of engaging multiple SSPs

No two SSPs are built the same. While advocates of SPO may portray SSPs as interchangeable cogs in the CTV machine, the reality is that different SSPs bring different things to the table – and that diversity is an asset to publishers.

For example, each SSP has its own unique agency and DSP relationships representing different markets and types of deals. As a result of these unique relationships, each SSP connects a publisher’s inventory with a specific type of demand, and cultivating demand from multiple sources lies at the heart of generating revenue through a unified auction.

Simply put: The more diversified an auction is, the higher the publisher’s revenue will be. This significant revenue-boosting effect is all but impossible to achieve through a consolidated SSP strategy.

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Additionally, SSPs sometimes come with geographic specialties that connect publishers with buyers targeting specific locations. In this case, partnering with multiple SSPs enables publishers to take full advantage of localized demand for CTV ad inventory, allowing them to sell to geography-specific markets while also delivering a more personalized experience to the end user.

Building a strategy that works

With all of that in mind, how many SSPs should CTV publishers have in their auction? In my experience, the sweet spot is around 3-5 connections per publisher. This number ensures a diversified auction without hurting QPS loads and inflating the publisher’s carbon footprint (more on that in a bit). Of course, every publisher faces its own imperatives and obstacles, and each one needs to curate SSP engagement in accordance with those considerations.

Moreover, the ability to execute on that carefully crafted strategy hinges on a publisher’s unified auction partner. Publishers must ensure their unified auction partner’s approach and technical tools and capabilities align with the publisher’s viewpoint and goals.

How do you find that alignment? Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a unified auction partner:

  1. Choose a platform that’s done the heavy lifting for you. Pay attention to the quality of the platform’s UX and the breadth of their demand connections. The right platform will allow you to pick and choose demand partners with ready-made, intuitive features like drop-down lists.
  2. Make sure your platform is demand-agnostic. A key part of making unified auctions maximally valuable for buyers and publishers alike is a high level of transparency. With a demand-agnostic platform, SSPs can rest assured they are getting a fair deal relative to their competitors, and publishers can build relationships with SSPs and agencies grounded in authentic trust.
  3. Access transparency that informs strategy. Every unified auction produces a wealth of metadata concerning buyers, ad calls, and the amount of revenue generated per unit of inventory. The right unified auction platform will put this information in publishers’ hands, which, in turn, empowers them to identify and target top buyers, e.g., through programmatic guaranteed deals. The right unified auction platform will also be able to provide assurance that this data is secure and won’t be shared downstream.
  4. Ensure you and your platform share the same priorities. Some platforms are built with a focus on publisher revenue, while others are built with more of an advertiser-driven focus. If you are a publisher, it’s important to make absolutely sure you’re picking the former.

Keeping the environment top of mind

Sustainability initiatives are gaining prominence across industries, and the CTV market is not immune from this macro trend. Making eco-conscious decisions is not only the right thing to do, but also a key consideration for any publisher looking to remain in favor with investors and consumers who increasingly value strong, actionable environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies.

With this in mind, it would be irresponsible for a publisher to pile on more and more SSP connections in their unified auction. At a certain point, the increased revenue produced per auction becomes marginal and can no longer justify the heightened carbon emissions produced by high-volume ad requests.

The new OpenRTB 2.6 protocol addresses this issue by providing guidance that prevents duplicative ad requests. In conjunction with a strategic and responsible SSP partnership strategy, these protocols reduce carbon emissions produced by ad selection by up to 84%.

Publishers have a key role to play in emissions reduction, and they can fulfill their dual obligations to the planet and their company’s bottom line by crafting a unified auction strategy that enables diversified, responsible competition.

Finding this balance – and putting it into action alongside trusted demand partners – is key to achieving both short-term optimization and revenue goals while simultaneously laying the groundwork for successful long-term initiatives concerning sustainability and elevating shareholder value. Understanding the specific value of multiple SSP relationships is the first step toward perfecting the unified auction balancing act.

For more articles featuring James Wilhite , click here.

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