Four steps to optimize PMPs in a header bidding world

December 12, 2017
By Ashley Wheeler

It’s no secret that the rise of header bidding has had far-reaching implications on the programmatic industry, and has forever changed the Private Marketplace in particular.

While the scale of biddable impressions that buyers now see is far greater than before, now there’s increased competition from other monetization partners that has driven down win rates. With the advent of header bidding, all partners have a level look at publisher inventory and an equal opportunity to win it, removing the sense of access and priority that PMP deals once promised. This, coupled with the new industry transparency brought on by initiatives such as Ads.txt, have led some to question the worth and longevity of the PMP business as a whole.

Yet despite these perceived headwinds, PMP business continues to grow. A recent report in eMarketer projected 36% growth YoY in Private Marketplace spending from 2016 and estimated that by 2019, 79.6% of total programmatic ad spend would be comprised of Programmatic Direct and Private Marketplace deals. At Rubicon Project, we continue to see steady growth in PMPs, even as more of our sellers add header bidding to their publisher page. So, how should publishers approach the Private Marketplace in this new header bidding world?

Step One: Align on your strategy

The first step is to determine the best PMP strategy for your business.  If you have a robust sales team and focus heavily on agency relationships, you may choose to give PMP deals priority in both your auction and ad stack to drive performance in favor of a long-term, strategic partnership. If your focus is more on near-term yield, you may choose to let PMPs compete solely based on price. Regardless of which strategy you choose, it is critical that the prioritization in your ad server (or lack thereof) mirror the prioritization of your PMP auction.

Keep in mind that if you allow PMP deals to compete at a higher priority within your exchange auction and choose not to prioritize them at a higher price priority in your ad server, you are allowing the impression to potentially win the auction at less than its true market value where it is then destined to lose out in your ad server. This ultimately undermines yield when an open auction bid from that same exchange partner may have won in both the auction and the ad stack at a higher CPM.

Step Two: Select a partner

Once you’ve determined how to prioritize the PMP, the next step is to select the best partner for your strategy. Just because header bidding has enabled equal access to all partners against your inventory, it does not mean that all partners are created equal when it comes to executing and troubleshooting in the PMP. If you choose to prioritize deals, select a partner with the tools to help make the setup and prioritization of those deals easy on both you and the buyer.  You’ll also need to ensure that your PMP partners are able to pass all Key-Values into the server and that your wrapper does not mediate the bids. This allows for the trafficking of deals over your Open Auction line items.

Regardless of whether you prioritize deals or not, publishers should look for partners who can help facilitate buyer discovery of your inventory through proactive market insights and market-making, and who bring you scale from multiple industry marketplaces, not just their own.  Lastly, PMP partners should have the tools and service to readily identify issues with PMP deals and quickly resolve them to ensure that the pipes are clear for monetization.

Step Three: Optimize your page

Once you’ve selected your primary PMP partner or partners, it is then important to ensure their integration is as optimized as possible. From a header bidding standpoint, confirm that bids and key values are making it into the ad server and verify that there is minimal discrepancy between your ad server numbers and your partner’s paid impressions. If you are testing or evaluating S2S integrations, monitor cookie match rates closely and consider leaving PMP partners client-side to help ensure that buyers can recognize their audiences and deals have the ability to be prioritized in your ad stack. Ensuring a clean integration for your PMP partners will go a long way in maximizing scale and response against your Private Marketplace deals.

Step Four: Guarantee the deal

Lastly, whether you choose to prioritize deals or not, don’t shy away from guaranteed deals or unique opportunities for prioritization that might allow you to charge a premium.  With equal access to all impressions, prioritization and the ability to hit set budgets are driving factors for buyers in the PMP. In other words, even if you choose not to prioritize most deals, be open to prioritizing those that are willing to pay for the privilege. Even with its complications, header bidding now allows publishers to offer a new value proposition to PMP buyers: the ability to place data-driven buys above both indirect and direct partners. With this newfound ability should come a corresponding increase in the value of the inventory, which should ultimately lead to scaled, efficient campaigns for buyers and more revenue for publishers.

In summary, Header Bidding has introduced challenges into the Private Marketplace, but with its increased scale and ability to more intelligently allocate impressions between direct and indirect, it also brings quite a bit of opportunity as well. With the proper strategy and set up in place, publishers will be well poised to take advantage of its continued growth and evolution.

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