You may have heard of this being referred to as Stack Class. These white-board sessions originated in the early days of Real-Time Bidding (RTB), before the dark times… before The Empire, er.. Header Bidding. Before Header Bidding.
This video is a little dated, but it covers the technical basics of RTB. I’ve been toting it around for years privately. I figured it’s about time to set it free.
I called it Stack Class in the beginning because I was describing all the components of RTB, you know… the stack upon which everything is built. In this video you’ll find SSPs, DSPs, user synchronization (cookies?!%$#@!), bids, responses, PMPs, ad markup… you know, all the things.
Whether you think it’s a fad, a “hack,” the new standard, or the latest shiny object, header bidding has had a significant and disruptive impact on the advertising technology ecosystem. It may only be a matter of time before Luma Partners adds header bidding wrappers as a new box to their (in)famous landscapes.
The promise of header bidding with multiple exchanges has yielded positive results for advertisers and publishers but it has come with a cost that, over time, might be too much to bear. Whether it survives the fray, or evolves into something new, header bidding has changed the game forever.
Header Bidding: The Good
In the movie starring Clint Eastwood, The Good guy is not necessarily altruistic in nature, but he’s really good at capitalizing on opportunities.
Header Bidding brings those opportunities by providing premium inventory into the programmatic marketplace. No longer are the best impressions locked away in the tower of publisher ad servers. They are now accessible via the myriad of sophisticated Seller-Side Platform (SSP), Exchange and Demand-Side Platform (DSP) technologies. This gives sellers more articulate controls over the rules of engagement for every transaction.
Retargeting, made easier by RTB, can now be applied at all inventory priority levels, improving yield for commerce sites. Elusive audiences could be more readily captured by private marketplaces and the open auction, inviting new advertisers to test, refine, and commit to new deals with new partners.
Meanwhile, demand side systems are given the opportunity to bring more premium buying contracts to their platforms. This could be why some publishers started seeing higher revenue with header bidding in play. During Advertising Week in New York, one publisher cited header bidding as being responsible for 50% lift in CPMs. These types of statistics have been echoed by several others in the industry. While this might not be the panacea that saves the online newspaper, it certainly helps keep a few more lights on. Next: The Bad
I assumed that before bidding, DSPs could not be sure whether an SSP applies floor price rules to an auction. Now, I saw some remarks in the academic literature implying that buyers know about the existence or even the exact quantity of floor prices.
The answer is: sometimes. Exchanges sometimes express floor or bid guidance in the bid request. This is not required for the market to operate; so many exchanges do not provide any guidance. Floors are almost always in play. In most cases they are dependent on a wide variety of variables including: the site, browser, device, day of week, time of day, audience data, user’s language, and geographic location of the user.
Floor prices, from an academic standpoint, are there to protect the base value the publisher has placed on the inventory. Bids falling below the floor, or reserve, are usually rejected by the exchange. Losing bid information might be recorded to give the publisher insight on the value advertisers are placing on the inventory and accompanying traffic. Next: Price Floor Discovery
Header Bidding: Why can’t header bidding be done server side?
What’s the reason all header bidding implementations are client side, can’t the same be achieved server side? So instead of a waterfall do an auction by getting pre bids from all the demand partners? What would be the down side to that?
This question was asked on Quora, below is my answer.
Header bidding is designed to expose the clearing price of exchange and SSP auctions so that a publisher’s technology can make an informed decision about which ad to serve. These prices are pitted against each other as well as the publisher’s demand from their primary ad server, usually Doubleclick.
In a perfect world all of this would be done on the server side. The primary benefits would be reduced payload size and lower latency in the browser. It’s not likely to happen, however. It would require SSPs, exchanges and ad servers to figure out how to work with each other in a server-to-server relationship. These companies tend to be competitors; count that as a business reason that will prevent a server side solution. Read more
In a pure auction, the highest bid should always win. In many cases an RTB auction ends with this result, but not always. There are two or three things that will adjust the auction mechanics to give a lower bidder the impression. Most of the time a modified auction is at the behest of the publisher. Read more