‘It will take a back seat’: Publishers see header bidding morphing

Programmatic advertising quickly moves to the next hot thing. Many publishers shifted from the waterfall to header bidding. And now there’s speculation that header bidding will come to an end as publishers shift toward server-to-server solutions that move bidding actions off publishers’ pages and onto servers.

With header bidding, publishers offer inventory to multiple exchanges before making calls to their ad servers. But since the bids occur on publishers’ pages, they can slow down load times, which is frustrating for users who want to view content rather than watching their browsers lag. With a server-to-server solution, bidding actions are moved to a server, which allows pages to load faster. For instance, Purch saw latency decrease by at least half a second after switching to server-to-server.

“Header bidding will be on the way out in the next 18 months as more publishers move server-to-server,” said Chip Schenck, vp of programmatic and audience at Meredith Digital, during Digiday’s WTF Programmatic event in New York City yesterday. Schenck later clarified that the basic mechanisms of header bidding will stick around, but that within the next 18 months “the way it is executed will morph into something else.”

We asked publishers if they foresee the end of header bidding anytime soon.

Dean Shapero, programmatic partnership manager at Rodale
It’s not the end of header bidding necessarily. It’s taking what we’re [the industry] doing and moving it to the server for latency purposes. For us [publishers], the only reason [to possibly move to server-to-server] is for latency. But there’s less concern for latency when you’re using a wrapper. Server-to-server is the next logical step. But it [server-to-server replacing header bidding] is not like how header bidding blew up the waterfall. Server-to-server is not as dramatic as an improvement over header bidding. So there is not a massive rush to it.

Craig Roth, programmatic advertising manager at The Washington Post
I don’t think header bidding will ever completely go away. It will just take a backseat or will need to be revamped. But server-to-server could become the No. 1 option for buyers and publishers alike. … It’s tough to completely go away from something. People said programmatic could bring the end of networks and exchanges, but they are still around for a reason. Somebody still always finds a need for them.

Julie Clark, vp of programmatic sales and strategy at Hearst
Server-to-server is on the horizon, and I anticipate it becoming more important in the next 12 to 18 months. Header bidding will not disappear fully, but it may be leapfrogged by server-to-server integrations from a tech standpoint.

Alex Magnin, CRO Thought Catalog
In a perfect world, we’d go server-to-server. However, as long as the companies providing that server-to-server service are taking a decent margin for the trouble, their competitors will try to go around to the header. And for a publisher, setting up server-to-server is a big challenge. Header bidding, in some form, is here to stay.


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