Header Bidding’s Need for Speed

by Tamir Lipton, SVP, Publisher Development
February 14th, 2017

speedIn this world of instant gratification, speed matters. Speed is good. Speed is right. Speed works. Speed signifies success. Speed, ladies and gentlemen, is our obsession. We are constantly striving to be faster. Few industries are immune to this phenomenon, and fewer companies can survive if they fail to make speed a top priority across their organization.

Nowhere is the value of speed more evident than technology. In our industry the need for speed is most clearly represented in the ad technology known as header bidding.

A common challenge header bidders face is ensuring bids make it to the ad server before the window to bid closes. That may seem trivial but often times it’s not. Companies which bid quickly provide the advertisers they represent with a better chance to win the auction. Companies that bid quickly provide the publisher with more competition, resulting in higher yields. When bids do not make it to the ad server the promise of Header Bidding isn’t realized.

To illustrate the difference in speed amongst header bidders, AppNexus released this handy tool to analyze how fast different header bidders are for each page. Knowing a bid time is important to publishers, who are tasked with optimizing header bidding setup and timeouts (the window to bid). The results show what many have known for a long time in ad tech – not all tech is equal when it comes to speed.

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Since speed is critical to maximizing performance, time-based metrics should be scrutinized as closely as traditional publisher metrics such as page-views and bounce rate. In fact, speed is a contributing factor to both. It’s also important to note that page weight factors, such as video and DFP settings, can also impact speed. The good news is publishers have measures of control over these decisions and how they impact header bidding.

For advertisers, speed is everything too.

Below is an illustration which shows the impact that speed has on advertiser performance. In this example, Yieldbot observed that sites which generate higher consumer engagement rates with ads (as measured by CTR) were also serving ads faster.

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The correlation between speed and ad performance is a primary reason that there’s a focus within digital media to develop faster tech. Google, a pioneer of cost per click (CPC) advertising, rolled out the AMP Project aimed at improving user experience by expediting the time it takes for a mobile web page to load. Google AMP has set the bar quite high. It’s easy to see the appeal from a consumer perspective since no one likes to wait. Facebook Instant Articles is another effort to speed up content delivery to consumers. Amazon’s entire business model is predicated on this.

It also can be argued that viewability is as much an issue of ad load time as it is an issue with ad slot location.

As we move to a mobile dominated world of content and ads, speed becomes the differentiating factor. No matter what part of the ecosystem you reside in, there’s universal agreement that the emphasis to speed things up is a very good thing for consumers, advertisers and publishers alike.

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