“Long gone are the days where you do a one-year contract with a publisher,” Gillis said. “It’s about being an open, tech-agnostic, ecosystem player and earning that publisher’s business every day.”
Because it’s easier to pack a bunch of partners into an ad server than the header, publishers often limit their header-bidding partners.
An AOL survey of 300 publishers found that half of them implemented header bidding, and 75% used five or more partners. Gillis believes AOL has a strong case to be part of that header-bidding set, in part because it offers an alternative to Google.
“If publishers got everything they wanted from one solution, like Google, they never would have implemented header bidding,” Gillis said. “We haven’t heard a lot of publishers saying that’s the direction they want to go. That’s why they are choosing to work with us directly.”
At the moment, AOL said it’s observing Google’s efforts to unify the auction within the ad server, but it hasn’t joined in any tests.
Beyond AOL’s efforts to onboard header bidding/wrapper publishers, it also wants to unify mobile auctions, which Millennial Media vet Gillis sees as the next frontier. “Mobile is an open battlefield, wide open for disruption,” he said.