IX Perspectives

Auctions, Ad Units, and Pricing in July 2016: The Supply Side

Yesterday we profiled the most active buyers in the Index Exchange marketplace during the month of July 2016. Today, we’re covering the sell side and the inventory these buyers gobbled up during July. Below you’ll find information on header dominance, top performing ad units, and how CPMs by auction type compare.

Header Share of Total Revenue has Grown Each Month – July was No Exception

header tag shareIndex Exchange identified header-based selling’s potential for disruption in mid-2015. It was incredible to see how the header story resonated with publishers and buyers alike – the data surely proves just how impactful the header force has become to not just programmatic, but all digital media buying and selling, in general.

It’s impossible to tell the story of July’s supply side without mentioning header – it’s everywhere. In July 2016, Index Exchange 73% of advertiser spend in the Index Exchange marketplace transpired in header auctions. That means the bulk of our publisher clients are selling through the header.

The vector of the shift is notable, too. Back in January 2016, tag-based, or waterfall-selling, was dominant: 44% of gross revenue seen that month was achieved in header auctions. Header took the majority in February, with 52% of advertiser spend (or publisher gross revenue) through header auctions. The share has been more pronounced each month (see below) and the amount of header-based revenue was 3.67x higher in July than it was in January.


The highest month to date for header-based publisher revenue was June 2016. We saw a slight dip in July (header revenue went down 3%), which we’re attributing to seasonality – there’s just less ad spend during the height of summer.

Ad Units – What’s Most Popular in What Auctions

share ad units

The x-axis of the graph above depicts the top ten ad units (by spend) sold in the Index Exchange marketplace during July 2016. We’ve broken out spend by integration type – as you can see, the majority of spend on these ad units took place in header-based auctions. Note the following:

  • Virtually all spend on large scale rising stars happens in header auctions. Pre-header we didn’t see much demand for units like the 300×1050 and 970×250. In the header world, demand for these large, impactful spots is rife. In fact, these two spots were the second and third most valuable types of display inventory, after the rarely bought and sold 336×280.
  • Mobile is dominantly header based. Our two most popular mobile web spots – 300×50 and 320×50 are sold by vast majority in head auctions – 89% and 87% respectively. As header eventually moves to in-app, the strategic opportunities there are really exciting.
  • Video header is here, and its average CPM is inching right up to direct-sold rate-card standards. The majority of the publisher revenue cleared through Index Exchange still is on digital display, but video is growing at a fast clip. (Check out this article here to see just how fast.) Video and header is super exciting for a number of reasons, but I’ll focus on one – buyers can now access potentially sold out pre-roll, valuable video inventory in real time, programmatically. The publishers we work with for header video set direct and programmatic at the same priority, which means if a programmatic buyer bids a price for a video impression that trumps the direct sold price, the programmatic buyer wins the impression. Because of this, header video CPMs are quite high – they’re 49% higher than CPMs of video sold in the waterfall.

The graphs below show the top five display units by spend and by impression volume in header and tag-based auctions. As you’ll see, the same five units are most popular in both types of auction. We’ve indexed all by spend or by impression volume, so the unit with the most spend or most impressions cleared becomes 100 and everything else is relative to that.

header spend 1

header impressions


tag spend

tag impressions

Below you’ll find some pricing information on header. The first graph ranks header units by highest CPM. It’s not surprising that video jumps to the top of that list – its CPMs during July 2016 were  nearly four times higher than the second most valuable header unit – the 336×280.

header CPMs

For information on how header prices compared to waterfall prices, see the table below. Again, everything is indexed relative to the average video CPM .

pricing table

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