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Header Bidding: What Publishers Need to Know

Header Bidding

There’s a single site-wide update that can increase ad revenue 10 to 20%.1

At least that’s what Time Inc. is expecting following the implementation of a header bidding wrapper across its digital properties.

But what exactly is header bidding? How is it different from the current advertising model? And what’s a wrapper?

The Current vs. New Models
In a ‘Waterfalling’ model, impression opportunities are presented to a publisher’s advertising partners one at a time in descending order of their perceived value.2 While industry standard, the model ignores potential high-value bids from lower ranking networks.

Header bidding, on the other hand, is a grouping of code that is placed at the top of a page and creates a simultaneous bidding auction across all partners, increasing competition and subsequently lifting revenue through higher CPMs and increased fill rates.3

Some small digital publishers have been testing header bidding since 2015.4 But many larger ones have stayed watched from the sidelines because it significantly slows page load; header bidding adds code for every network, increasing load times as each is simultaneously but individually called.

Understanding Wrappers
But now, through the use of wrappers, load lag can be avoided.

Wrappers are a set of code that adds rules to the auction of header bidding, allowing publishers to add and manage advertising buyers across websites. The result? Uncompromised page load while streaming the process of adding or removing potential buyers.

Andy Blau, chief business officer at Time Inc. explained, “Having a header wrapper solves the problem of putting dozens of advertising tags on the page because it is not only cumbersome for us to do, but it also slows down the page.”5

In sum, header wrappers enable publishers to gain from the increased yield of header bidding without any negative impact.

Too Early for Standardization
Despite the promise of increased ad revenue, wrappers are still in a very early stage.

Multiple products with an array of capabilities and features regularly enter the market, leaving many publishers wondering which provider is the best. This is apt to continue until standards are set by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

Unfortunately, publishers shouldn’t hold their collective breaths.

Matt Prohaska, CEO and principal of Prohaska Consulting said, “[The IAB] has a history over 15-plus years of not letting one vendor get a quick win.”6

How Publishers Are Responding
Standardization aside, Time Inc.’s use of wrappers is a significant turning point, becoming the first major digital publisher to announce the use of wrappers. And they won’t be alone for long.

Turner has expressed interest in rolling out a header bidding wrapper across its portfolio. Similarly, AOL is reportedly working on the deployment of its own header bidding wrapper across other large publishers’ sites.7

Perhaps Tony Casson, senior director of ad products for Sovrn, an online advertising firm, said it best. “This is going to gain significant market traction this year. Anytime a publisher gets A) more control, B) more simplicity and C) higher yields, they’re going to take a closer look.”8

Digital Disruptors

1. Slefo., George. “Header Bidding Wrappers Are the Next Ad-Tech Craze (for Large Publishers).” Advertising Age Digital. N.p., 24 Aug. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
2. Bilton, Ricardo. “WTF Is Waterfalling?” Digiday. N.p., 08 Mar. 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
3. Sluis, Sarah. “Header-Bidding Wrappers: Another Step Toward The End Of The Waterfall.” AdExchanger. N.p., 02 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
4. IBID.
5. Slefo., George. “Header Bidding Wrappers Are the Next Ad-Tech Craze (for Large Publishers).” Advertising Age Digital. N.p., 24 Aug. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
6. Sluis, Sarah. “Header-Bidding Wrappers: Another Step Toward The End Of The Waterfall.” AdExchanger. N.p., 02 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
7. Slefo., George. “Header Bidding Wrappers Are the Next Ad-Tech Craze (for Large Publishers).” Advertising Age Digital. N.p., 24 Aug. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
8. Sluis, Sarah. “Header-Bidding Wrappers: Another Step Toward The End Of The Waterfall.” AdExchanger. N.p., 02 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.