How header bidding is moving into apps

October 16, 2018

Tags: 2018, Publishers

Natalie Breitbach
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This interview was originally published in eMarketer, reprinted with permission.

Most premium publishers who sell inventory programmatically rely on a tactic called header bidding, which allows them to simultaneously offer inventory to all of their ad exchanges before making calls to their ad servers. While header bidding has steadily gained adoption on the open web, it has been slower to gain popularity among app publishers.

Because there is not an actual header within apps, the phrase “mobile header bidding” is a misnomer, which is why industry insiders instead call this practice “mobile bidding,” “advanced bidding” or “unified auction.” Casie Jordan, director of professional services at Twitter-owned mobile ad tech company MoPub, spoke with eMarketer’s Ross Benes about how header bidding is moving into apps.

eMarketer: Why has it taken longer for the concept of header bidding to become popular within in-app advertising

Casie Jordan: The in-app world tends to get ignored by the broader ad tech community a little bit. It’s like we’re at the middle school dance and nobody wants to dance with us. Chronologically, the cool stuff happens in desktop, and then mobile apps eventually get the benefit. For example, native ads in mobile apps took a few years to gain traction.

eMarketer: Why do ad tech innovations often get applied to the web before they’re applied to apps?

Casie Jordan: The app ecosystem is such a different animal. With the business practices of how ads are transacted, there’s quite a bit more to figure out, and it can take a longer time.

eMarketer: What's different about mobile header bidding compared with previous programmatic selling that occurred in apps?

Casie Jordan: Mobile app exchanges have sold inventory programmatically for quite some time. What’s different is that there’s a call to action for every type of demand source—including exchanges and ad networks, which are popular in the app world—to buy inventory in real time. Mobile app bidding is just about allowing the publisher to offer up all of their inventory at once to all of their demand sources.

eMarketer: Why are software development kits [SDKs]—which allow vendors to integrate their products into a publisher’s app—a crucial part of mobile bidding?

Casie Jordan: An SDK is just the technical mechanism that ad platforms use to get their ads inserted into mobile apps. Regarding the usage of SDKs, it should really be completely up to the publisher based on who they want to work with.

eMarketer: Adding a bunch of SDKs can make a publisher’s app too large and slow down load times. How are publishers approaching the way they integrate SDKs for the purposes of mobile bidding?

Casie Jordan: An exchange can work with a bunch of demand-side platforms [DSPs] that don’t require their own SDK, which means that the publisher needs only one SDK from the exchange to tap into those DSPs. But in order to get a lot of bang for their buck, publishers may work with a few exchanges and other demand sources.

Some ad networks will have their own SDK for their own ad creative. For example, ad networks with interactive or rewarded video will require the publisher to use their SDK if the publisher is going to work with them. So the question of how to leverage SDKs boils down to the specific demand source and what they require or don’t.

Learn more about MoPub's approach to in-app bidding for the mobile app world here

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