Why Does Video Header Bidding Still Lag Behind Display?

Danny Spears (l) and Paul Gubbins (r)

A few weeks back UK publisher alliance The Ozone Project and Unruly announced a new partnership designed to push adoption of video header bidding, for outstream video specifically. Header bidding is well established in the display world, but applying the same principles to video is more technically complex, which has slowed down adoption. VAN spoke with Danny Spears, commercial and operations director of Ozone Platform at The Ozone Project, and global programmatic strategy lead at Unruly, to get under the hood of how the partnership will work.

What are the big differences between display header bidding and video/outstream header bidding specifically?

Paul Gubbins: If you look at some of the fundamental differences they have been player sizes and player types. From a technical perspective you might have four or five different exchanges all operating with different types of players. When it comes to monetisation of video and specifically outstream videos for publishers, it has never been as clear-cut as “I’ve got a 728×90 or a 300×250,” and they’re exactly the same regardless of the monetisation partner I work with.  Video is slightly different, hence the reason that pre-roll has only really started to get traction in regards to being sold in a unified auction over the last twelve months.

Danny Spears: The constraints aside, I think the fundamentals are the same. Human attention is a scarce commodity and when you’re working in the context of scarcity it makes absolute sense from an economic point of view to open up competition. It just so happens in the programmatic market that is done through the mechanism of what we know as header bidding. 

What challenges do these technical differences cause, and how does the partnership help solve those problems?

Paul Gubbins: It is more technically challenging, and it throws up issues around latency and compatibility between different vendors.

Danny Spears: I think publishers are becoming increasingly clear on the technology that they want and the engineering requirements that are necessary for them to go after that themselves. But the reality is that there is complexity there and heavy lifting and that is where Ozone working with outstream can play a role with helping the publisher overcome some of those challenges and, to take Paul’s example, normalise for different types of players.

Paul Gubbins: We work with lots of premium publishers, and more and more of those publishers are going to start to adopt the Ozone header bidding hub technology. Now we have an adaptor for Ozone’s wrapper, if Ozone go out and sign 15 global premium publishers that’s great news for us as we know instantly those 15 global publishers can ingest our demand and run it in a unified way, because they are working to one singular protocol and that’s Ozone protocol. 

How do publishers benefit from video header bidding?

Danny Spears: Many publishers are growing their audiences, growing engagement, but they remain challenged around their monetisation. The status quo is that publishers have tended to have exclusive relationships in this space as they do in some others, which means that the supply they have of outstream is essentially captive. Which is a problem in that wider economic context where there’s an excess of demand and quality is scarce.

Paul Gubbins: If we look back to display, when display went through the process of coming away from the waterfall tags on pages and the auction participants and everybody getting an equal opportunity to bid at the same time. Even though publishers were never 100 percent sold out of their display, yield went up for the publisher. Look at the value of video in comparison to your standard 728×90, look at how much demand there is from premium advertisers for non-user-generated video and then look at the bid density of that because, for the first time, everyone is going to see that opportunity and have the opportunity to participate in an auction. Therefore, it is going to drive the eCPM higher than it would have done had it just gone to one exclusive partner.

Danny Spears: Following on from that, we see a very strong correlation between the bid density, the number of participants in an auction, and the yield outcome. There’s a very strong correlation across all manner of formats.

What was the historical reason for publisher opting to sign exclusive contracts with outstream providers?

Paul Gubbins: There have only ever been a handful of specialists. So when outstream was emerging, publishers said “You know it is a relatively new format and incremental revenue to us, why don’t we try and take a revenue commitment upfront?” What’s changed now in 2019 is that lots of demand partners can fill those outstream placements so now publishers are asking themselves, “Are we potentially leaving money on the table by not running our outstream formats via header bidding?”

What are the benefits to buyers?

Paul Gubbins: Most publishers predominantly sell out of their video by their direct sales teams, be it pre-roll, outstream, etc. It is very difficult for the buyers’ side to get access to good quality video hence the reason they are always buying in user-generated content (UGC) environments – the usual suspects. When publishers sell in a unified way they let programmatic demand partners and their direct sales teams compete for their instream and outstream. 

Danny Spears: If you think about the platforms, they’re are compelling from a marketer point of view in that they offer scaled audiences and are executed through a single buy. This collaboration – where Ozone delivers technology and Unruly delivers demand – sets the foundations for a viable alternative; which allows video marketers to access trusted, quality professional content environments that the platforms – with their abundance of UGC content – simply cannot match for quality.

What are the next steps for this partnership?

Paul Gubbins: From our side, we still support publishers. Should a publisher say to us, we want to work with you exclusively on Unruly then we would still continue to support global publishers in that way. We are also going to be a lot more vocal at educating publishers on running their outstream placements via header bidding and using technology such as Ozone. We are going to explain to them everything Danny just started to do there around the expected uplift in bid density and eCPM. So, what’s next for us is very much forward-facing educational workshops with publishers to walk them through the benefits of outstream when sold in a unified auction. 

Danny Spears: We’re looking forward to being able to give publishers’ ready access to Unruly demand via Ozone Platform, as a means to boost their bid density, drive their fill and stimulate revenue growth. With the integration up and running, we plan to explore new and incremental opportunities for our publishers, including Advanced BI & Analytics and that relating to Ozone Identity.

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