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Guest Column: Unraveling Header Bidding, Programmatic's Top Trend for 2017: Dharika Merchant, AndBeyond.Media

04-May-2017
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Guest Column: Unraveling Header Bidding, Programmatic's Top Trend for 2017: Dharika Merchant, AndBeyond.Media

Header Bidding. These two words have become the talk of the ad tech town off late with everyone from top publications to advertisers wanting to jump aboard the bandwagon. But despite the gaining popularity and wide acceptance that Header Bidding has gained amongst digital circles, a lot many people still remain in the dark about what it is, why it exists and how does it streamline the advertising game for publishers – which is occasionally plagued by inefficiency and under-performance.

So what is Header Bidding all about?

It is an improved way for publishers to hold auctions, enabling advertisers to vie for premium publisher inventory – both reserved, and unreserved. An advanced, pre-bidding technique, Header Bidding is a cutting-edge programmatic solution through which publishers can offer their inventory to multiple ad exchanges at once before making calls to their ad servers.

The proposition that Header Bidding brings to the table is that by allowing multiple demand sources bid upon the available inventory at the same time, publishers gain the opportunity to a higher bid collection which translates into higher yield and increased revenue.  

Not only does it help publishers in gaining revenue, it also aims to circumvent the inefficiencies that would ideally prevent websites from finding top dollar for their ad inventory.

What makes Header Bidding superior to how publishers are currently trading their inventory across programmatic channels?

So far publishers have been managing ad inventory via their ad servers using the traditional waterfall model - where an ad slot goes up for sale when a page is loading; and the ad server plugs into its advertising partners to ensure sale of impressions.

In this model, publishers usually offer their impressions up for sale through one sales channel and in case the impressions do not get sold via this channel, the inventory gets passed over to another channel that is of lesser value; until someone makes a bid. No doubt this process work, but it can get fragmented and inefficient at times. There lies a risk in losing out inventory.

With header bidding, publishers can let multiple demand sources bid on the same inventory, at the same time. This not only ensures that inventory does not go to waste, but also ends up helping publishers increase their yield and subsequent revenues.

Tell Me More…

The bidding process is initiated while the page is loading. In this process, publishers get the freedom to set time limits on bids thus ensuring audiences don’t bounce off the site, due to long page loads. At the same time, publishers also get the freedom to decide which partners they would like to work with. Companies such as OpenX and Appnexus represent many large brands that are vying for ad spaces on a publisher’s website. With header bidding coming into play, everyone get to bids at once, driving up the price of the inventory thus aiding publishers to make more money. Advertisers are in a better position too as they get a fair shot at the best ad inventory out there.

Header Bidding eliminates inventory getting pushed back and forth by a very large extent; a practice that has proved to be wasteful and highly inefficient. In addition to this, there are other underlying benefits too. Publishers learn a lot about the amount of dollars their various partners are willing to pay for impressions. There is also a higher level of sophistication when it comes to tech integration between publishers, tech vendors and partners within the ecosystem as compared to what we currently see.

Sounds Too Good To Be True

Indeed like every new innovative solution out there, Header Bidding has a few complications that need to be circumvented too. For starters, the setup can prove to be cumbersome. However, the larger issue is what it does to page load times. With every SSP tag that a publisher plugs into a webpage, there is a possibility of increasing page latency. Loading pages with third party tags slows down the page load time and in turn affects the reader’s website experience.

But worry not. The good news is that now this issue can be tackled headlong too. A server-to-server Header Bidding solution such as Header Bidding S2S offers publishers the option of allowing unified auctions to take place on servers instead of browsers. In a server-to-server connection, a publisher’s tech partners does the required heavy lifting, so that publishers do not have to suffer at the hands of page-load latencies and unsatisfactory yield. In comparison with Header Bidding 1.0, server side bidding ensures that publishers no longer feel restricted as to how many demand partners they can plug in, or whether their page latency might shoot up.

To Sum It Up

Ensuring efficiency in practices tied to unified auctions will not only minimise the complexity, but also improve ad quality and optimise the user experience. From a publisher’s perspective, Header Bidding offers a lot more in terms of efficiency and increased revenue in comparison with what they’re doing right now.

With the opportunities for increased revenue, more control over ad inventory, and reduced page load times, it’s safe to say that programmatic’s top trend for 2017 has truly arrived!

(The author is President, AndBeyond.Media)

Nayak currently heads operations under the Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) umbrella for Posterscope (OOH), Brandscope (OOH), Ambient OOH, Hyperspace (Retail), InDeed (CSR Advisory) and C-LAB (Celebrity & Sports Management)

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