Making header bidding worthwhile

What else do you need to make header bidding a capability worth having?

April 4, 2016

Advancements in digital advertising are akin to public works projects: most innovations pioneered by tech companies quickly make their way into the public domain.

That’s in large part because companies in our ecosystem are so heavily intertwined, and in part because good ideas just tend to travel. By now, technology companies in our space accept that the best innovations will eventually enjoy across-the-board adoption. What were once unique selling points for a particular company very soon become standard industry practice.

As a consistent pioneer in this space, it’s a phenomenon Rubicon Project knows well. But we also know that one-off engineering innovations are only as useful as the broader objectives they serve.

One recent innovation that is beginning to see broader adoption is header bidding, a tag implementation approach that enables auction bids to compete for higher-level tranches of inventory, namely direct-sold inventory, on publisher sites. It’s not a footnote technical detail: the approach brings publishers closer to holistic yield management – a holy grail of advertising automation – than ever before.

But as with all our engineering innovations, this approach doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So what other capabilities make header bidding worth having in the first place?

header bidding cover page

What’s inside:

  • Sellers: Take control of your inventory.
  • Brands and buyers: Get programmatic access to high- value impressions.

1. Submitting the right bid price. It’s one thing to enable auction bids a shot at competing for higher-stack inventory for impressions. It’s another to value those bids correctly so that they have real shot at competing.

In the previous world, auction bids technically had the opportunity to compete, but the submitted bids were estimated not based on the value of the impression itself, but based on previous clearing prices. Submitting bids based on an impression’s actual value creates a truly holistic marketplace from what was formerly just a technical capability.

2. Enabling holistic bidding on mobile. No one denies that mobile is increasingly where users are, but it’s a further bridge to cross for product teams to act like it. A solution like header bidding should account for mobile which, as a younger channel than desktop, should inherit the innovations we’ve created for desktop a lot earlier. Rubicon Project offers the first header bidding solution for in-app mobile inventory, across both smartphones and tablets, and on both the iOS and Android operating systems.

3. Empowering buyers and sellers to transact in all ways. Likewise, header bidding works best when all buying types – direct-sold inventory, private marketplaces, and auction-based bidding – are competing within the bid stack. Rubicon Project has invested considerable resources in developing the technologies to automate all of these buying types.

Our private marketplace technology is number one in the digital advertising marketplace. In developing our private marketplace technology, we’ve created the mechanisms to bring the most inventory into a single, dynamic marketplace, thus helping to create a robust ecosystem against which to run full-funnel yield.

4. Collating the highest-quality inventory possible. The best bidding technology is for naught if it’s optimizing yield against subpar inventory. We knew that continuing to collate the best possible inventory, and the access to the most types of inventory, would be essential for making the architecture we built for accessing that inventory worth using. This has meant not only optimizing our publisher relationships, but also enabling the breadth of mobile web, mobile app, and video formats to be addressable by our technology.

5. Enabling comprehensive partner management. Sellers should be able to offer header bidding setups with multiple partners at a time through a single installation. With an exchange management system – a technology Rubicon Project will offer – sellers can empower their sales and account teams to manage these installations themselves, as opposed to putting them into a development queue each time (which can sometimes kill the momentum of a deal, as business teams well know).

Managing these partnerships through a single system also gives sellers access to intelligence about the auction itself, delivering meaningful insights that can inform future decision-making about partnerships.

6. Optimizing user experiences. At a time when users have easy options to opt out of digital advertising almost completely, all of the above works to the benefit of the consumer, from enabling accurately valued bids to compete for impressions, to reducing passbacks that can slow down load times and cheapen user experiences.

We know that both the consumer-facing and backend technologies that comprise our platform must be considered together as we develop our product. Header bidding is a no-brainer – that’s why it’s enjoyed such wide adoptio. But it’s just as important to craft a digital advertising ecosystem that makes this a technology worth having.