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Digiday: Header bidding has a video problem, for now

Ask any supply-side vendor if it plans to bring header bidding to video ads this year, and the answer is probably “yes.”

And why not? In an ideal world, video header bidding lets advertisers access publisher video inventory traditionally reserved for direct sales and allows publishers to sell more video ads at the highest price possible — all in an automated fashion.

But there are doubters. If header bidding comes to video, publishers will face the same issues, if not even worse, that they experienced in display — namely latency and data leakage. Most important, video inventory, especially long-form quality inventory, is scarce, and publishers are wary of selling it the same way they do display ads, said to Tanuj Joshi, vp of strategic media enablement for MediaMath.

“I think 80 percent of the video market is controlled by 20 percent of the publishers. Big players like Hulu have developed their own tech stack so they are not a consumer of header bidding,” said Joshi. “Header bidding will be the catalyst for more video publishers to go programmatic. But it is too early to really assess its effectiveness.”

For starters, there isn’t really even a header in video, only a player. Header bidding is written in JavaScript. The adoption of JavaScript-based video players is still relatively low — most are still Flash-based — so video header bidding is unlikely to take off at the moment, said John Li, director of supply technology for mobile software company PadSquad.

To overcome this, vendors can add header codes to video players, the same way they implement header bidding in mobile apps. And they — and some media companies — push advertisers to use IAB-compliant video player ad-serving interface definition tags to describe their ad creative in a bid request. With video, the concern is that the presence of these VPAID tags may worsen lengthy video load times. With header bidding, up to 10 transactions can occur simultaneously in real time on each page as it loads, according to Scott Braley, general manager for advertising platforms for video tech firm Ooyala.

“First we have the technical baseline where a player doesn’t really have a header. Ad exchanges like Index Exchange have implemented the logic inside the player, which is great,” said Gil Rachlin, vp of global products and engineering for open ad management firm Sizmek. “But it requires different implementation for different player technologies, which may potentially create longer load times for video ads.”

He is also concerned that the existing video header bidding solution may screw with performance measurements, giving rise to the need for a proper server-side solution that is transparent to the publisher.

Read More at Digiday

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