Header Bidding: It's Just Putting The Auction First, Not Last

Header bidding is a decent way to get incremental demand and drive more yield because all inventory can be seen simultaneously in one place. But the buy side still needs some convincing of its benefit and tactics for integrating it into the workflow.

With header bidding, the buy side needs to evaluate both the buy side and the sell side. “We have to better understand how to purchase inventory through header bidding, why to purchase it and where to purchase it,” said Kristina Goldberg, vice president of programmatic, MediaVest USA, during the “Header Bidding: Fad or Future" panel at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Programmatic Marketplace event Monday. Goldberg said it’s harder to see the advantages from the buy side, plus not ever header bidding technology is integrated into a buy-side platform.

Another difficulty for the buy side: a lot of publishers have multiple header tags. “How do all 12 tags play to my benefit as a buyer?” Goldberg asked.

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Ad-tech firms say header bidding is here to stay. Ultimately, the header is just going to be the mechanism to collect the bids, according to Tom Shields, senior vice president, publisher strategy, AppNexus and co-founder, Yieldex.

“The technology involved in header bidding could be a fad, but it allows the auction to come first, ahead of non-programmatic demand,” said Sam Cox, vice president of global partnerships, MediaMath. “Google First Look might be the thing that makes header bidding a fad. The question is, do you have the priority of allocation?” First Look debuted in December as Google’s header bidding solution.

With header bidding, publishers set the priority levels at which a bid clears. “Guaranteed impressions used to always win and programmatic inventory was remnant. Now, premium impressions get snapped up right away. By putting programmatic first, as a publisher, you’re able to capture high value bids. And as a buyer, you can see all premium impressions,” Shields said.

As buyers understand the value of their audiences, and they’ll see when a lot of programmatic inventory is going for very high CPMs.  “Most publishers we see have multiple levels of priority, and they do that based on price. That works well for a small number of high-value impressions,” Shields noted. He advised publishers to watch latency in ad load times, to ensure all partners are treated similarly and to make sure all the bids are called asynchronously.

Pilar Prassas, global head of ad operations, business development and programmatic, Reuters, said that the news giant recently announced that it’s testing header bidding on a limited number of pages including its homepage. Because it couldn’t get reliable data on latency times, Reuters is handling the tests internally. Prassas said it also doesn’t want header bidding to compete against any of its direct buys or private marketplace deals.

“Success with the header is all about the set-up,” Cox said. He also said getting to know your partners and understanding how they work is essential.

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