Round Peg, Square Hole: Display Tactics Will Fail With Video Header Bidding

"On TV And Video" is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Tal Almany, senior director of advanced integrations at SpotX.

Header bidding exploded as a display tactic in online advertising, but adoption for video has been slower.

Many publishers and tech providers are taking what they’ve learned in the past three-plus years of display header bidding and trying to plug those practices into header bidding for video. That’s just not going to work.

While they are often leveraged to serve similar interests, video and display advertising are fundamentally different from an execution perspective in nearly every detail. Failure to understand this is perhaps the leading contributor to some of the industrywide confusion around the merits of video header bidding.

The complexity of video warrants an entirely different strategic approach for everything from optimization and monetization to containers and safety controls.

Container Strategies, Latency Issues

In display, it is completely acceptable – and sometimes recommended – to leverage multiple client-side header bidding partners within a container. But with video, this isn’t the best approach because content and ads typically originate from two different places: a content network and an ad server.

Once the viewer starts watching a video, the content and ads are then combined at the last second to create a single stream of content. Major issues, such as slow loading time and low-quality video, become apparent. Dynamic or server-side ad insertion can help alleviate these issues by stitching the content together, enabling a more seamless viewing experience. For this reason, a server-side solution is recommended and publishers shouldn’t add multiple client-side partners to the container.

Since video ads call for a heavier payload, publishers must closely monitor the user experience. Using a display container strategy for video can negatively impact revenue because more players will naturally cause increased latency.

Video media buyers can troubleshoot what’s happening post-auction with header bidding, which cannot be done in display since post-auction errors are not made available in that environment. With more granular competition and dynamic pricing in the ad server, sellers can theoretically reap more rewards when header bidding is at play.

Data And Security Strategies

Because video header bidding opens publisher inventory to multiple demand sources simultaneously, there is a perception that it also exposes publishers to the data leakage or ad fraud commonly found in display advertising. This is not the case; when executed correctly, video header bidding transactions shouldn’t be any more vulnerable than traditional tag-based solutions. Publishers that leverage video header bidding should apply the same degree of vigilance to header bidding inventory as they would to any other inventory type.

Effective video header bidding wrapper solutions should also be able to support integrations with quality or brand-safety verification vendors, such as Moat or DoubleVerify, which help ensure that inventory is accurately represented and measured. Verification for video is very different than for display because ad placements must support a VPAID-compliant video player to accurately measure viewability, brand safety and quality.

While display advertising has been around for nearly 20 years, video is still in its infancy in many ways. The medium is clearly more complex than display, and the technologies used to effectively manage it must be more sophisticated as well as specialized. When executed correctly, video header bidding can deliver impressive results, but that requires a depth of understanding and expertise that can’t be achieved by the flip of a switch.

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