Is Mobile In-App Header Bidding Real?

Nishant Khatri headshot
By Nishant Khatri, SVP, Product Management
May 10, 2017

Implementing an in-app header bidding solution invites conflating reactions that have kept many publishers at bay, due to unclear implications related to performance of their apps, method and cost of implementation, and effect on user experience. These are important considerations that every mobile publisher should keep in mind. However, technical solutions and consultation have recently become available, meaning that these are no longer unsolvable problems.

Below, we outline three of the most common reactions to or misconceptions about in-app header bidding, and the reality of the current situation.

Reaction 1: There is no header in mobile app.
The truth is, it does not matter. When it originally began, header bidding was a concept that was related to a tag implementation that sits within the header of a page. As the solution spreads to other formats and channels, the mechanics of integration are less important than the resulting effect on auction dynamics and monetization. In the case of header bidding, technology is changing rapidly – there is now video header bidding, server-side header bidding, in-app header bidding – and a header is no longer essential for implementation. Header bidding provides the ability to receive a real-time bid from an exchange and use the pricing information when making the impression allocation decision. This is possible in mobile apps as well.

Reaction 2: I can not add another SDK to my app.
In reality, you don’t have to; non-SDK solutions exist as well. This type of solution offers a few lines of code that an app developer can add to their app in its original form or may be modified by the app developer’s technical team to suit their custom needs (this is possible by working with a partner / exchange with significant technical resources). App developers can expect code that is well commented and documented so their in–house or out-sourced engineering teams can implement it with ease.

At PubMatic, we are committed to ensuring ease of implementation with all our header bidding solutions. We were the first to market with creative and easy-to-use solutions, such as our open source wrapper, OpenWrap, which comes with UI-based management features that can be deployed in a day or two. We are pleased to see that publishers have taken note and our wrapper is growing multi-fold in North America this year, and has significant and growing penetration in EMEA and APAC already.

Reaction 3: Header bidding for mobile adds latency.
Think again. Mobile publishers certainly need to be more selective about which partners they work with, but there are other considerations as well. First of all, the ad callouts must be made ‘asynchronously,’ which simply means that ad loads don’t block other content from loading. Secondly, mobile in-app environments do not require multiple cookie sync up calls. This reduces one of the major contributors of network latency and browser congestion, which is one of the key issues with header bidding. In display header bidding, a large number of parallel calls get issued by the browser when the resources of the device remain the same. On mobile devices, this does not happen, especially if a publisher is discrete about adding a very limited number of header bidding partners. Thirdly, connection information can be used creatively to design a solution in which a more restrictive list of partners can be called when bandwidth is low. Of course, when a user is connected through a high speed wifi network, the restriction can be relaxed.

PubMatic’s in-app header bidding solution is the latest addition to our header bidding product suite. The solution comprises a small snippet of code that allows publisher to source bids from PubMatic before sending a call out to the ad server. The bids get sent to the ad server through key value pairs, where the inventory allocation decision happens using the same rules that the app developer is already familiar with. Now publishers can use header bidding to improve their mobile in-app monetization while retaining control of their user experience and app performance.

Still wondering why you should implement in-app header bidding? Check out our recent post, “4 Reasons Why Now Is The Time For In-App Header Bidding.”