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Header bidding in video is the latest buzzword for publishers in JAPAC regions (Japan and Asia-Pacific). The term comes from display advertising, and essentially means competing all demand sources -  programmatic and direct - simultaneously to find the highest paying ad for each impression. While most are aware of the benefits, there are many that aren’t taking advantage of them - money is being left on the table.

Publishers are still working with ad servers that lack the programmatic infrastructure (the mechanisms to execute concurrent, real-time bidding) that allows publishers to compete demand sources simultaneously - hence the practice of ‘waterfalling’ ad calls, or calling demand sources one after the other.

This is where header bidding comes into play. But, as with all buzzwords, separating fact from fiction when it comes to header bidding can be difficult. So, here’s what you need to know to devise a header bidding strategy to maximise video ad revenue.

Video is a different beast

Video files are larger and more complex than display creatives, so the client-side bidding model that is common in display header bidding inevitably results in latency and other delivery issues when applied to video.

For video, a more sophisticated implementation is required. The mechanisms that enable video header bidding usually reside in the body of the web page or in the player, not the header like they do in display. The bidding doesn’t occur until the user clicks the play button, which means the auction runs while the video player is loading, not while the header loads.

SpotX graphic on Video Header Bidding
 
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Historically, the potential of header bidding for video has been limited by difficult implementation and a fragmented market. But there are two server-side implementations that can be easily adopted:

Header bidding via a ‘wrapper’

Header bidding was adopted rapidly after it burst onto the scene in North America. Publishers eager to boost monetisation added line after line of code to incorporate different header bidding partners, causing issues with latency and multiplying sources of error. Since then, new iterations of the technology have been developed to help publishers manage large numbers of advertising partners efficiently, making unwieldy client-side integrations unnecessary. Commonly referred to as a wrapper or container, this technology organises buyers and sets rules for the programmatic auction, streamlining the extra code and complexity added by each new header-bidding partner.

The results of fine-tuning a server-side solution have been clear, with beneficiaries noticing increases in fill rates and revenue. For example, after implementing SpotX’s header bidding wrapper, SendtoNews - a North American sports highlights and video platform - saw a 44% increase in revenue, 40% increase in call volume and an 11% increase in eCPM.

Video player bidding

Video player bidding is another piece of new technology that allows publishers to use their video player to mediate programmatic demand through a direct, server-side integration with an SSP. Under this technique, the ad decisioning happens before a consumer ever renders the video, which promises to improve latency by reducing additional calls to its ad server.

SpotX works with JW Player to provide this capability. When a bid that beats or matches a publisher’s defined price floor is returned, JW’s technology bypasses the call to the ad server to find the most efficient and highest paying ad.

This technique streamlined the bidding process, solved implementation challenges and unlocked revenue potential for Penske Media, the publisher of WWD, Variety and IndieWire and majority owner of Wenner Media.

“We know that demand is plentiful and, therefore, there’s more revenue out there, but on the programmatic side there are still technical issues we’ve experienced with latency from ad calls within the ad server,” Brian Levine, VP of revenue operations for Penske Media, told AdExchanger.

Header bidding is designed to compete direct sold demand with programmatic, driving up CPMs, increasing fill and delivering better revenue results for publishers. Selecting a server-side implementation gives the publisher significant auction efficiencies and enables faster page load times, while still allowing the buyer to inspect and value each opportunity. It allows publishers to pass valuable information on to buyers to increase value for both parties. With less complexity involved in the turn-key solutions now in market, publishers have no excuse for leaving money on the table.

Christopher Blok is country manager (Australia & New Zealand) at SpotX