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How is the Industry Tackling Video Header Bidding Latency?

How is the Industry Tackling Video Header Bidding Latency?

April 26, 2017

Header bidding is revolutionizing programmatic display advertising, increasing efficiency and allowing publishers to maximize ad revenues. Now – with programmatic video ad spend booming – publishers are looking to apply header bidding to video advertising to achieve similar results. For example, the MailOnline became one of the first to implement the technology at the end of last year.

But despite the positives header bidding is not without its faults, most notably in slowing down page load times, which could prove critical when applied to video. So what exactly is header bidding and how can publishers avoid latency issues when applying the technology to programmatic video advertising?

Header bidding, which is also known as pre-bidding or advanced bidding, was designed to circumvent the inefficiencies of the one-at-a-time waterfall model. By allowing multiple demand sources to bid on an impression simultaneously, before the primary ad server is called, it encourages competition, reveals the true value of publisher inventory and maximizes ad revenues.

Although it is a relatively new technology, publisher uptake of header bidding is strong. After a period of testing with publishers such as the Washington Post and Forbes, Facebook believes header bidding can increase revenues by up to 30%, and is now opening up its solution to mobile web publishers. Header bidding also has benefits for the buy side, giving marketers access to a far wider pool of inventory and democratizing the auction process.  

Like all new technologies, header bidding has its teething problems, and in this case latency is the major concern. A JavaScript tag is placed in the web browser and executes on the web page so each call-out to an ad exchange is a potential source of page latency, meaning the more demand sources the publisher adds, the slower the page will load. Communications between the browser and demand sources rely on the user’s internet connection, Open Browser Calls, and the limited number of slots on the browser, which slows down response times.

With display, latency can cause viewability issues and negatively impact the user experience, but with video – which already has more complex execution and longer load times – these problems are significantly amplified. For in-stream video, users may get frustrated by extremely long load times and abandon the content they were trying to view. For out-stream video – where there is a far smaller window of opportunity to engage – users may scroll past the video player before the ad even begins to play.

Various solutions have been put forward to improve header bidding latency issues in display – including implementing header bidding wrappers or containers and moving the process from the browser to the server – but will these work for video advertising?

Header bidding wrappers or containers are used to manage multiple demand partners, reducing the amount of code on the webpage. Although header bidding containers include timeout thresholds, and do speed up the process for display, they are unlikely to significantly improve latency issues when applied to video advertising as long as they are still placed on the user’s browser. A far more promising solution is to move these containers to the technology provider’s server.

When the container is moved to the server, the heavy lifting is removed from the browser and communication can leverage much faster connection speeds between the server and each demand partner. This dramatically speeds up the entire process, reducing load times and improving the user experience.

While some feel server-side integration reduces the transparency that header bidding promotes, this is a small price to pay for the improvement in page latency. As long as providers offer publishers full visibility into the bidding process – letting them know if their exchange has an ad to show and establishing a price before the ad call is made – server-side integration should not mean sacrificing transparency. 

As programmatic video advertising increases, an industry-wide shift towards server-side integration is inevitable. The latency issues that already plague header bidding for programmatic display are only intensified with video advertising and shifting header bidding containers from the browser to the server is the only workable solution.

(As published on MarTech Advisor)