Header bidding may not be a new technology, but it can still be a tough concept to wrap one’s head around.
To break it down, header bidding is a unified auction and the best bidder wins the bid. This is different from the usual waterfall model which sees publishers setting the priority for each advertiser or ad network they are connected to.
The minimum accepted price for the ad placement is also specified and the inventory slot is sequentially offered to demand partners in order of priority. When someone meets the price, the impression is sold.
In this new episode of Unboxed, we speak to Ashish Thomas (pictured right top), CEO of Summit Media, and Khin Mu Yar Soe (pictured right bottom), associate director, customer success at PubMatic, on some of the issues and benefits when it comes to header bidding.
Thomas explained that some benefits he has seen with header bidding include revenue increase, yield management and higher transparency. Hence, it decided to invest in this area early. Meanwhile, Soe also listed three options available for publishers when it comes to header bidding – open source solution, proprietary solution and hybrid solution.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: There are many advantages to header bidding, but technology is never without its challenges. To someone who doesn’t understand this, it’s a complicated topic to digest, set up and implement. How should publishers decide that they need to take the plunge and why should they do it?
Thomas: Any new technology has new lines of code, if I could call it that. But the whole digital space is rife with new technology coming in every day. So to participate and succeed in the digital ecosystem, this is part of the job. And header bidding technology is not new, it’s not scary. In fact it took our team just two or three days of getting all the tactical integration done and be ready with it.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: To be honest, header bidding isn’t something new so why are we talking about this today? What are some of the advancements in this space?
Soe: It is nothing new, but it is constantly evolving and getting more sophisticated so that’s probably why we are still talking about it. Like today, we are largely talking about client-side header bidding, but server-side header bidding is also becoming a thing and getting more traction in the market. It will eventually unlock the mobile, CTV and OTT inventories.
From that front, we are also constantly enhancing our open web solutions. In June this year, we launched our open web OTT, which is the server-side header bidding solution for OTT and CTV in particular, and SDK solution to address the mobile opportunity. So, in a sense, it is truly becoming like an omni-channel.
And in terms of advancement, I’d say identity solution for header bidding. That is becoming one of the hot topics as well because following Google’s announcement to phase out its third-party cookies, it is therefore quite important to find alternative solutions to address it.
In preparation for that, we also launched a solution called identity hub, and that comes as a standard with all our header bidding or previous integration. This essentially allows the publisher to try a new identity solution ahead of the duplication of third-party cookies, and publishers can easily support multiple IDs. The best part is that they can test and learn to try multiple ID solutions at no additional cost just to see how it’s impacting their revenue in the short run.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Talking about innovation, what are some of the biggest changes or most exciting innovations that you’ve adopted in the header bidding space and beyond during this pandemic?
Thomas: I think we are one of the few partners who work with multiple header bidding partners, not just one. Reason being we invested early in our own data capabilities. We are now 60% to 70% prepared for a cookie-less world because we started investing last year in our own data management platform (DMP), which is collecting more first-party data.
Some of the identity management solutions that Soe was talking about, we have actually already [landed] those. And we have 70% of our network covered with a unique identity. So it’s things like that, which coupled with using header bidding as a technology and partnering with someone like PubMatic, which then causes us to offer innovative, better priced, and better yield solutions to the market.
So to your question on what other innovations are we working on, there are lots of them. But most of them, if not all of them, are driven by this need to own our own data and having more data.
All our solutions to our advertisers and users are geared towards using data to deliver better solutions and that’s really working well for us, both in terms of our user base growing as well as our revenue growing, in a time when most like-minded digital organisations could be doing worse than last year. There are a lot of digital innovations that we’ve invested in, primarily in our DMP, and in our own programmatic practice.
There are lots of other things also. We are the first media company in Southeast Asia to do a live simulcast for product launches in a pandemic across six or seven platforms, including outdoor media. So we build that capability using a partner to be able to do a simulcast.
We are bringing programmatic capabilities in the outdoor space and that’s what I’d like to work with PubMatic on in terms of how do we look at header bidding and programmatic in the outdoor space. So we have launched possibly one of the first programmatic campaigns in the outdoor space in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.
And it’s not new, it’s there, the capabilities exist. I know there are other peers and markets such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand that have also done it. So we’re not necessarily the only ones. We’re investing a lot in these capabilities and innovations to stay ahead.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What have you learnt by navigating through these challenges over the past year?
Thomas: That’s a very good question. The one thing I really learnt is you’re as good as your people and your people are as good as your partners. Every digital company cannot afford to hire all the best talent in the market or [those which] you don’t have access to. Stack your team with great people as much as you can and then keep your partners, who are great, close to you.
By Janice Tan, originally published in Marketing Interactive