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The future of header bidding

The explosion of header bidding solutions available means that selecting the right solution requires careful consideration.

Over time, header bidding has gone from being something that is a sexy new trick used by a few publishers to a sophisticated, mainstream technology. Today's header bidding solutions work across varied ad formats giving publishers more opportunities to maximise yield and giving buyers more choice and flexibility in campaign planning and activation. The evolution of header bidding has, however, brought added complexity and publishers must be mindful of how they control access to their inventory while at the same time continue to attract high value demand.

The commoditisation effect

The explosion of header bidding solutions available to publishers means that selecting the right solution requires careful consideration. The main factors driving this decision-making process should be: the solution’s ability to generate the greatest levels of competition for inventory to maximise yield; how much time can be saved by increasing operational efficiency by enabling teams to make seamless, real-time optimisation decisions; commitment to innovation to find new revenue opportunities; and full unification of demand channels within the same platform - again for greater efficiency. These capabilities also benefit buyers by enabling them to identify optimal supply paths to reach their desired audiences.

Despite these clearly defined objectives, data from Jounce Media shows that over 60% of publishers work with more than 10 exchange partners, 27% work with more than 20, and 5% work with more than 30. Furthermore, the top 5 SSPs have access to the majority of premium inventory available in the marketplace thus we’re still in a world where there is a significant amount of audience duplication.

Buy, build, or partner

During the course of programmatic maturation publishers have often faced the conundrum of choosing whether to buy, build, or partner to deliver the best possible outcomes. Regardless of the decision, the basic requirements are the same. Header bidding solutions must be able to address the whole of the demand market and keep pace with developments in the industry; failure to do so threatens revenue potential.

This is why many publishers have opted for Prebid as their wrapper header bidding technology solutions. Being an open source platform, Prebid provides the optimum blend of flexibility, speed, scalability, and independence and brings maximum benefits for both publishers and media buyers.

Why are there still so many header bidding solutions in use?

Data from ‘The state of omnichannel wrapper: US market landscape study’ by Advertiser Perceptions provide insight into the challenges and opportunities publishers face as they incorporate wrapper tech shows that the market remains fragmented and many different types of solutions are widely used. Most publishers utilising wrappers today do so via hybrid setups—that is, they use a combination of both server-side and client-side wrapper solutions. Hybrid setups, in which publishers have both client-side and server-to-server-wrapper partners, are the most common, with 42% of total publishers using this setup according to the study.

Omnichannel wrapper users were also more likely to rely on hybrid wrappers that included both server-to-server and client-side demand partners (51% vs. 42% of total publishers). In many of these setups, additional header bidding or app bidding partners may sit outside of a primary wrapper. While publishers would largely prefer to streamline complexities and technology requirements, they are often willing to make exceptions for partners capable of offering unique demand at scale, but that are incapable or unwilling to integrate into the broader wrapper framework.

Proving the value of hybrid solutions

Powered by Prebid technology, PubMatic’s OpenWrap header bidding solution increases the number of quality demand partners and by being able to switch between client side and server side it is able to cater to different circumstances to attempt to maximise performance for publishers and advertisers.

Recently, according to a case study with published, implementation of our OpenWrap solution by RP Digital, a German publisher, generated a 375% increase in programmatic revenue, an 81% increase in paid impressions filled by header bidding, and a 71% decrease in ad load time compared to their previous set up. This proves that finding the right solution may be the key to success for publishers.

Header bidding and audience addressability

The customer journey is being fundamentally disrupted by changes in media consumption habits, emerging channels (such as connected TV), new identity solutions, and standards. Media buyers are adapting the way they plan and buy and increasingly turning to first and second party data to power their campaigns in order to mirror these new, more complex customer journeys, and reach and engage target audiences.

To address the challenges facing buyers, globally, 55% of publishers are seeking partners that can provide solutions around identity to offset losses caused by the disappearance of the cookie. At the same time, 59% of publishers want partners that help to monetise first- and second-party data. At the moment, the industry is still working through many ideas and hypotheses as to the best way to provide both in a standardised, scalable way.

As these solutions emerge and evolve it is vital that we do not simply add layer upon layer of tools but that we plan for the long term and ensure that solutions are built on technology that is capable of adapting to emerging channels and solve for cross channel identity.

At PubMatic we have developed Identity Hub for publishers, a curated - ID solution for implementing and managing various IDs. Identity Hub helps publishers more quickly and efficiently adopt and test different ID solutions and learn from the leading ID solutions available to see what is most effective.

Staying in control

In order to maximise advertising yield, publishers and data owners need to help buyers access the data within the supply chain. In order to do this publishers need to be able to manage access and permissions in real-time, in a single platform and optimise for success-based KPIs. For buyers, the ability to apply new valuable audience segments to the premium supply enables them to advertise in a more relevant, scalable way.

To succeed, future header bidding solutions will also need to provide access to a range of DSPs and agencies, with zero data leakage. With strict regulatory requirements and hefty fines for breach, this is going to be top of mind for brands when selecting partners.

What to look out for in the future

Header bidding is still a work in progress and will continue to evolve and adapt to ongoing changes in consumer behaviour and the digital advertising ecosystem. Today, the key questions publishers should be putting to incumbent or potential SSP partners are: does your platform

provide solutions for identity and audience addressability without the use of third-party cookies? Within the platform can I access the full spectrum of identity solutions and provide actionable reporting and insights. Is the platform built on Prebid? How do you plan to support emerging channels in a holistic way? How do your first- and second-party data solutions work?

Good SSPs will be able to answer these questions easily and insightfully and offer to walk you through the fine details - ergo, they operate as an educator and trusted advisor to the market.

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