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How header bidding for mobile can help publishers

Today’s sprawling internet doesn’t fold neatly into your laptop. In fact, it isn’t really a single, codified internet at all. It’s expanded into a maze of apps and mobile websites, with mobile advertising now accounting for over half of all digital ad spending worldwide, according to eMarketer. But deep in this cyber-jungle of smartphones and tablets, there are still plenty of traditional laptops and desktops up and faithfully running. This portion of the internet remains a vital monetisation source for publishers, nabbing USD 25 billion for U.S. publishers in 2016.

So here’s the question: If mobile’s on track to overtake desktop, why are desktop revenues holding steady? One answer is header bidding. By letting publishers evaluate bids from multiple ad exchanges on an even playing field, rather than prioritising a single exchange (i.e. Google’s AdX), header bidding solutions like prebid.js give desktop publishers a more effective means of monetising their inventory.

If header bidding is able to shield the desktop internet from declining monetisation numbers, imagine what a header-bidding equivalent for mobile would do for mobile publishers. This isn’t wishful thinking. These solutions are readily available to mobile publishers.

Mobile prebid allows publishers to bring all the benefits of desktop header bidding in-app, while accessing a large pool of quality advertisers, through a quick integration that does not require a software development kit (SDK) or increase latency. In fact, by filling impressions at the top of the waterfall, mobile prebid actually decreases waterfall latency, as it reduces the need to go to network and mediation partners for demand.

Superior mobile prebid solutions support all standard interstitial and ad formats (banner, video and native), and allow publishers to customise their users’ viewing experience. Ideally, they also offer monetisation and performance reports for price floors and allow publishers to see if these values are correctly set. By enabling mobile publishers to know the true value of their inventory, mobile prebid empowers them to maximise their yield and thrive in the evolving digital landscape. Some mobile publishers are seeing greater than 100 per cent revenue increases quarter over quarter after implementing mobile prebid.

Header bidding solutions also exist for the mobile web and were recently in the news when Facebook announced an expansion of its Facebook Audience Network by opening it up to mobile web publishers who use header bidding technology through six ad tech companies, and its support of prebid.js. Facebook’s entry into header bidding is a major step in ensuring a transparent and fair marketplace for mobile publishers, and a further challenge to Google’s opaque practice of prioritising its own ad exchange.

But even with the advent of these partnerships and solutions, mobile monetisation doesn’t come without its challenges.

First, not all header bidding solutions are created equal, and it is in mobile publishers’ utmost interests to educate themselves on the options available in the market. To optimise every impression, publishers should align with an independent partner who transparently support their revenue growth and offer tools and reports that enable them to augment their strategy in real-time. Just as critical is working with a partner who maintains an open marketplace and grants access to unique demand from quality advertisers.

Another hurdle for mobile publishers to overcome lies in the bulkiness of SDKs (software development kits). While SDKs bestow mobile publishers with plenty of functionalities – among them the ability to perform audience analytics to keep track of monetisation and engagement – they have a reputation for being hard to implement and often tricky to maintain without help from a third-party vendor. Any publisher starting out in mobile header bidding should team up with a technology vendor able to provide a comprehensive full-stack solution for measurement and monetisation through their SDK, eliminating or reducing the need to install and maintain multiple SDKs. The fewer SDKs publishers have to manage, the better.

Then, there’s ad blocking. As chance would have it, millions of people don’t like seeing advertisements when browsing the internet, whether on desktop or on mobile. One recent study predicts ad blocking could cost publishers USD 35 billion by 2020. With network-level ad-blocking technologies similar to those designed for desktop already invading the mobile space, the risk of lost revenue for mobile publishers is real. Mobile publishers can push back against ad blocking by providing a higher-quality ad experience to their users. Over time, they can apply insight gleaned from first-party audience data to produce ad units that don’t disrupt a user’s experience.

When it comes to mobile monetisation through header bidding, the future looks promising. If mobile publishers want to avail themselves of the huge opportunities that mobile advertising affords, they should educate themselves on the monetisation strategies available in the market, the obstacles that face them and align with open, independent partners who transparently support them in their efforts to optimise their revenue.

Sonal Patel

Sonal Patel is the Managing Director of AppNexus Singapore.
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