What's on the Horizon for Header Bidding

header bidding

Header bidding has been one of the hottest topics for the last year, giving the advertising industry new ways to sell programmatic inventory. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Augustin Ory (pictured below), CEO, The Moneytizer, talks about the ways publishers can be technically prepared to capitalise on header bidding and stay ahead of the game.

The digital advertising industry is constantly evolving; and it's required business to be at its cutting edge to remain competitive. Over the past year, one technology in particular, header bidding, has revolutionising the sale of programmatic advertising inventory. As a result, understanding how header bidding works, and what direction it will take going forward, is critical for advertising success in 2018.

A brief history first. Before the arrival of header bidding technology, ad purchases operated relatively inefficiently: every ad call was sent to one network at a time at an ad server. If the first network was not interested in purchasing the ad space, the offer was sent to the next ad network, and so on, until it was ultimately purchased, or not.

Thanks to header bidding, publishers can now put several programmatic buyers in competition with one another immediately, instead of selling inventory to a single specific buyer one at a time. This allows the publisher to sell their inventory at the highest possible price.

The success of header bidding has also brought the advent of an open source project to address existing challenges with its technologies and create conversation around its future. It has also led to the release of successive versions of Prebid.js, a header bidding technology for publishers.

In 2018, publishers need to be one step ahead of the header bidding evolution – or make that 'revolution'. Specifically, for them to capitalise on the opportunity header bidding affords, they should be thinking about the following for the upcoming year:

Developing a proprietary bid 'wrapper'

First, a little more context. Header bidding technology is accessible through what is referred to as a 'wrapper' – a technology layer that allows bids from demand partners to be passed through to the decisioning layer. The decisioning layer is where it is determined which bid has won. Currently, the majority of content producers use prebid.js as their wrapper for managing bids. However, for them to exert more control over the bid process, they will need to begin developing their own wrappers. That, however, requires strong technical skills and most be done carefully. Technology that is not well implemented and monitored can have a profound negative impact on the monetisation of a website. Ultimately, the wrapper is to header bidding as the key is to a lock.

Accepting new formats

While the number of available header bidding formats is increasing, standard IAB formats still make up roughly 90% of those available. However, many new formats are currently in beta with header bidding, including video, native formats, and high-impact formats such as skins. As these new formats come online and are made more widely available, publishers will want to be in a position to accept all of these formats via header bidding technology.

This may sound relatively simple, but it's not. For example, currently for publishers to display a native ad, they simply copy and paste a JavaScript code. But to implement native ads in their header bidding wrapper, publishers will have to build a template and use the essential elements provided by the winning partner to render the ad (title, text, image, etc.). The publisher must do the rendering to adapt the ad to its content by performing some integration and web design development. That's a significant undertaking for publishers and new technical resources may be required to build templates that can be adapted to each new format. On the selling side, changes will also need to be made to accommodate a larger stack of inventory for advertisers and to enhance the management of these campaigns. And, on the publishing side, advanced technical skills will be needed to install the video and other formats pre-bid. These advances will certainly bear better CPMs for publishers though, as a result of higher impact and better-performing ad units running on their sites.

The Moneytizer

Augustin Ory, CEO, The Moneytizer

Adding new demand partners

As the header bidding marketplace continues to mature in 2018, publishers will want to maintain a high purchase rate as the marketplace evolves. To do so, they need to keep themselves informed of technological advances and new formats, but also continue to increase the number of partners they have for each format.

The unique requirements of each SSP, however, coupled with the development, ongoing maintenance, and evolution of header bidding technology, demand that publishers have strong coding resources, so they can maintain an effective and malleable bid wrapper as they add more partners. Header bidding performance will undoubtedly reflect the amount of work invested in its success. Even with superb technical skills, it is a full-time job to properly optimise the technology, maintain competitiveness, and have an ability to take on additional partners. However, the more partners a publisher has, the more revenue they will collect from their advertising inventory.

Consistently updating header bidding technology, and responding to all of these emerging needs, requires technical skills that can be a challenge for websites of all sizes, especially smaller ones. But the ability to deliver on these needs is a must for publishers to maximise their monetisation potential today. A content publisher must either possess great technical skills or find a platform or partner to work with who can provide them, to insure delivery on header bidding's tantalising promise.