Although header bidding wasn’t even an option for publishers three years ago, by last year it had revved up so much it was being used by 70 percent of U.S. publishers.
The advanced programmatic technique enables publishers to simultaneously offer ad inventory to multiple ad exchanges to gain higher bids and maximize revenues. Now publishers are seeing a major swing of the pendulum from browser-side bidding (conducted on the client’s website) to server-side bidding (conducted on a server). While the browser option allows for easy setup, the server option allows for interaction with several hundred demand sources without worrying about skyrocketing latency or reliability. It works via user-page code that calls the server on the publisher’s behalf, reducing the multiple internet connections that would otherwise be necessary to reach each partner.
“Whether server-side header bidding is a solution for the long haul or yet another stepping stone remains to be seen,” writes Rachel Parkin on Adexchanger.com. “It will, however, bring about a number of welcome and much-needed changes that will radically alter the programmatic landscape.”
Big players now heavily involved include Google, Amazon, Media.net, Purch, AppNexus, Index Exchange, PubMatic, Rubicon Project, Sonobi, and PulsePoint.
Among other advantages of server-side bidding:
- User-friendliness: In essence, the process moves the complexity of the process from the client to the server and eliminates busy work for the publisher.
- Better ad quality: Use of OpenRTB allows demand partners to include creative ad content along with their bids so that ad quality standards can be proactively applied to prevent poorly conceived content from slipping through.
- Better user experience: With faster integrations, downloads are faster and bids don’t get stuck en route to the browser, minimizing frustration for all and leading to higher publisher yields.
- Efficient video ad processing: “Client-side header bidding is dead on arrival for video … it’s an outdated mode,” states Leah Brite, director of product marketing for online video advertising marketplace Spotx. “To handle the hefty weight of video and take advantage of modern technology, video header bidding should be executed server-side.”
On the negative side, some publishers see server-side methodology as less transparent than header-side, since they must trust one vendor to round up bids and run auctions fairly.
“While code run on the browser is visible to all, what happens on the server is invisible to both the publisher and the buyers,” advises Sarah Sluis on Adexchanger.com. “It’s possible auctions could be conducted in a way where one demand partner gets preference or a final look. Or data could be leaked or hidden fees could be taken.” Sluis also describes the cookie-matching process as complex, noting that it can favor vendors who own server-to-server connections.
As the dynamic pricing enabled by server-side bidding gets more complex, header bidding containers are helping to organize and manage the process. Before choosing a container, analysts recommend evaluating the quality of any container chosen based on the experiences it generates, its operational and technical complexity, its reliability, its transparency, and the thoroughness of its reporting.
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