Facebook launches header bidding to create a ‘safer environment’ for programmatic

The social media giant has integrated header bidding into its Audience Network in a bid to cut out the “middle men” who unfairly profit from programmatic buying.

Facebook has given its backing to header bidding, an advanced programmatic bidding technique that is said to be more profitable for publishers and brands.

Header bidding works by allowing publishers to offer inventory to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously before making the final call to ad servers such as DoubleClick.

According to Yoav Arnstein, head of audience network for Facebook in EMEA, by allowing multiple demand sources to bid on the same inventory simultaneously, the result means publishers increase their yield and make more money. He says it also ensures a fairer price for brands.

Starting today (22 March), Facebook says mobile web publishers that use header bidding will be able to join Audience Network through approved partners or through open-source header bidding solutions like PreBid and PubFood. Arnstein says publishers who integrated Audience Network header bidding can achieve an increase of revenue between 10% and 30%.

READ MORE: 90% of advertisers looking to change how they buy programmatic ads

He tells Marketing Week: “I would compare [header bidding] to a Sotheby’s auction. Essentially with header bidding everybody gets to submit a bid at the same time rather than an auction where the first bidder goes in the room with the seller, puts out their best price and if the seller likes it they say yes before hearing any other bids.

“Ultimately it is great news for publishers as it gives them the best possible deal and will encourage more direct and fair programmatic trading with brands.”

With the ongoing The Times investigation putting a lot of attention on the nature of digital ad spend as well as the extremist content a lot of branded content inadvertently ends up besides on platforms such as YouTube, Arnstein concedes launching a new programmatic option such as header bidding could look like an unnecessary complication. That is especially the case at a time when the “murkiness” of programmatic buying has come into question.

“I understand that view,” he admits. “Header bidding isn’t about to eradicate the industry-wide issues that The Times has shined a light on.”

However, he counters: “But that doesn’t stop it being a positive either. With the way ad bidding happens in programmatic advertising currently, publishers are consistently losing margins to third-party middlemen who make the rules and obfuscate the truth.

“Many brands believe in both making premium publishers stronger and creating a safer environment for programmatic, so moving to header bidding achieves this while cutting out the middle men. Header bidding empowers high-quality publishers to get higher revenues and that’s nothing but a positive thing, right?”

He doesn’t believe the current debate around brand security should be completely pegged onto programmatic ad buying either: “It is naturally very easy to point fingers at programmatic but most of these security issues existed way before programmatic was even around.”

Arnstein says Facebook “recognises” it needs to take the quality of advertising security “very seriously” but says the way it is investing in its advertising ecosystem means it will arrive at the “end station sooner rather than later.”

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