Thought Leadership

The Arrival of Enterprise Header Bidding

May 29, 2019
By Garrett McGrath, VP, Product Management

In recent years, header bidding has made it easier for ad buyers to access premium inventory, and for publishers to increase fill rates. More than half of US web publishers have now adopted header bidding to optimize their inventory, and yet integrating it can be a headache without help. Without an engineer or optimization expert at hand, publishers can feel at a loss.

Since Rubicon Project  co-founded in Sept 2017, we’ve been committed to aligning header bidding with the complex and ever-changing needs of publishers. In doing so, Prebid has become an open source solution that taps into increased advertiser demand and maintains transparency and a positive user experience.

While Prebid’s open source technology has made the implementation of header bidding easier and more accessible, it can still be difficult for media providers to adapt, test, or curate without the aid of a costly third party.

There’s more pressure on publishers to increase their yield across programmatic advertising platforms and channels: in-app, video, native, etc. They need user-friendly tools that will integrate seamlessly with their partners and solutions that don’t require a Ph.D. in Computer Science to manage.

Rubicon Project believes that today’s publishers require and deserve even greater simplicity.  This is why we developed Demand Manager.

Demand Manager is a full-service, enterprise solution meant to solve for these nuances, pairing open source technology and robust tools in an integrated marketplace that’s managed with white-glove service.

It’s part of our larger objective of making header bidding more universal. We believe offering solutions that make header bidding more user-friendly will give media leaders more control and make them less dependent on outside developers.

Imagine a baseline wrapper that can be fitted with bells and whistles, but also provides a staple header bidding solution that easily integrates across platforms and channels. What was once far-fetched is now comprehensible; what once required a third-party to operate and troubleshoot now allows publishers to adjust “in-house.” This vision is now becoming a reality through Demand Manager.

Manageability Means Autonomy

In early days, publishers leaned on expert development teams to set up and run header bidding, but this is no longer the case. Prebid has made implementing header bidding more transparent and straightforward. It provides simple, step-by-step instructions to download, integrate, and configure header bidding. However, its nuances may still evade media leaders who aren’t necessarily engineers. Prebid’s open source header bidding solution isn’t entirely user-friendly… yet.

For point of comparison, let’s compare header bidding technology with website-building software. Imagine building out your business website, but every time you need to adjust it, you have to email a costly vendor with instructions, because you don’t write code. Now, imagine you suddenly had access to the software that lets you adjust your site without having to go into the backend. This is the service Squarespace provided, which re-invented website design by giving users an underlying theme that they could then adapt to their specific needs. To use Squarespace, you don’t need to know HTML to make the important choices you want around your site. You can build out your site, manage it, and run it with an accessible user interface.

Returning to header bidding, the challenge today is that any time a publisher or media provider wants to tweak a setting in their wrapper, they have to put it into a development queue. They either need to depend on engineers with an advanced skill set, or they have to create custom tools that give them the leverage to test and tweak things to their specifications. With Demand Manager, this is changing. Publishers will have more direct, hands-on control of the wrapper, making it possible for them to adjust accordingly. In short, we’ll soon have the “Squarespace” version of header bidding.

The Wrapper as an Enterprise, Full-Feature Product

In this way, the Prebid wrapper is now evolving into an enterprise, full-feature product, complete with user interfaces. This will make header bidding more user-friendly–which is just what publishers need to operate it on their own terms.

Meanwhile, improved manageability, analytics, and technical support through Demand Manager will allow publishers to optimize yield across inventory, making their fill easier to scale. With the evolving model, there will be a standard wrapper and, on top of that, add-ons, so media providers can customize their wrapper solution to increase performance. With these added features, publishers will soon be able to use open source solutions in enhanced ways: think the ability to sell inventory across every type of media, with every type of scale, geography, speed, or budget, all in one programmatic buy.

Enhancing Supply Path Optimization

These developments also have significant implications for Supply Path Optimization (SPO). With more accessible technology, publishers will be less dependent on intermediaries in the supply chain, and more able to operate nimbly and autonomously. They’ll be able to decide optimal time-outs for bidders on their own, shuffle the order in which bidders are called, and optimize pricing buckets, all without relying on developers.

Ultimately, Demand Manager offers an enterprise header bidding solution that’s easy to navigate and makes managing bids, and revenue, easier. With a more user-friendly wrapper solution, header bidding will continue to deliver on the promise of providing publishers the ability to sell every impression at its true market value—more simply and efficiently than ever before.


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