Header Bidding: Not Just For Publishers’ Benefit

natrianmaxwellData-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Natrian Maxwell, ‎director of demand services at OpenX.

It’s no secret that header bidding is hugely popular with publishers.

The monetization tool exposes each impression to programmatic demand before calling the publisher’s ad server, ensuring maximum competition for inventory and significantly increasing publisher yield.

Less discussed, but no less significant, are the benefits of header bidding for buyers, including improved viewability, forecasting and reach.

Access To High-Quality Inventory Equals Better Viewability

 Prior to the introduction of header bidding, it was practically impossible for buyers to get 100% visibility into a publisher’s inventory. Premium inventory was reserved for direct-sold and private marketplace deals, leaving less inventory available to be sold in the open auction. Header bidding has changed that. Buyers now have visibility into the entirety of a publisher’s inventory, and the ability to bid on and win guaranteed placements.

Increased visibility into premium inventory, such as the home page or above-the-fold inventory, substantially increases viewability rates. By exposing more premium placements to all bidders, header bidding has led to more valuable eyeballs and increased opportunity for conversions.

Better Forecasting  

Accuracy in forecasting is hugely valuable for buyers. When buyers can only rely on the access of an exchange’s tags in the publisher’s ad stack for forecasting available inventory, expectations often don’t align with reality due to the natural variability in the ad server’s allocation of inventory to traditional tags. This is exacerbated when a certain bucket of inventory is highly valued for a unique market, as publishers can drive higher prices by reserving that inventory for guaranteed or direct deals, which can lead to volatility in an exchange tag’s access to that audience.

With header bidding, every enriched impression flows through an exchange operating the bidder technology. This provides buyers with full transparency into all of a publisher’s inventory. More precise inventory insights allow for better forecasting capabilities to understand the true availability of a buyer’s target audience.

Global Reach

Visibility and access into the entirety of a publisher’s inventory means buyers can execute precision campaigns for niche audiences at a global scale. By opening up inventory in smaller global markets, or highly specified ones, header bidding enables buyers to achieve campaign goals in a highly targeted and efficient manner.

If a brand or agency wants to reach CEOs in Denmark who are in the finance industry and are frequent fliers, it can now buy all of that inventory. Political campaigns can expect the same success in the US this presidential election. If Hillary Clinton’s campaign wants to reach all Democrats in Ohio between the ages of 45 and 60, the inventory is theirs to be had, at the right price, of course.

Before header bidding, given the restrictions of the available inventory, an advertiser might only see 10% of available impressions.

Publishers were eager to implement header bidding given the clear and immediate benefits for revenue generation. Less heralded, but no less impactful, are the benefits that header bidding brings to the buy side.

Premium inventory reaches more eyeballs, a transparent marketplace leads to better forecasting and smaller, high-value markets are unlocked. Smart buyers will recognize header bidding as the harbinger to a truly programmatic marketplace, and adapt accordingly for maximum value.

Follow Natrian Maxwell (@WolfofAdtech), OpenX (@OpenX) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.


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