Real-Time Is Really 0.36 Seconds
Just 0.08 seconds after a user clicks on a URL, the publisher is already asking its ad server if an ad is available. If not, then the server asks an ad exchange.
0.02 seconds later, the ad exchange is reaching out to demand-side platforms (DSPs) for requests. At 0.12 seconds after a user goes to a URL, each DSP connected to the exchange is receiving a report including an anonymous profile of said user, Website category, and page ad safety information.
From there, it takes just 0.005 seconds for a DSP to overlay ad targeting and budgeting rules and apply third-party data. Another 0.005 seconds goes by and each DSP has come up with their own optimal bid price to reach the anonymous user. At 0.14 seconds — just 0.02 seconds after the profile information was received — the DSP responds to the ad exchange.
Over the next 0.05 seconds, the ad exchange is running its auction and selecting the winning bid. At 0.19 seconds the exchange sends the price and ad from the winning bid to the publisher's ad server. At 0.23 seconds the publisher's ad server is telling the browser which ad to display, and at 0.31 seconds the ad sever is sending the winning bid to the browser.
Finally, at 0.36 seconds, the ad is displayed (or at least ready to be displayed if the browser is still loading). So it takes 0.36 seconds for a browser to display the winning bidder's ad in an exchange-based environment starting from the time a user goes to a URL.
The data comes from Turn and their latest infographic: "The Life Of An Ad."
While 0.36 seconds is not a lot of time, here are just a few recent iconic Olympic moments that would have been wildly different had individuals been just 0.36 seconds slower.
My browser doesn't even load a page in 0.36 seconds. Just from me sitting here with a stopwatch and loading random pages, it seems to, at best, take a little more than a second. Maybe your Internet is a little faster than mine, or maybe not, but now I know that when I'm being retargeted, the entire auction is complete well before my browser is finished loading the page.
Take a look below to see what 0.36 seconds looks like in real-time.