eBay: Header Bidding Promises to Bring Transparency to Programmatic Advertising
Director of Product Management: Advertising
Publishers and brands have high hopes for header bidding. By opening up media buying to all potential buyers instead of a preferred few, it democratizes programmatic advertising and adds transparency to the space. Jean-Dominique Boffa, director of product management: advertising at eBay, spoke with eMarketer’s Tricia Carr about how header bidding came to be, and what it means for the future of programmatic advertising.
eMarketer: How did header bidding originate?
JD Boffa: Header bidding began a few years ago to solve one of the main issues in advertising. Before header bidding, programmatic advertising was not very transparent. It was done through the waterfalling method, which gave certain buyers access to inventory sequentially, based on their priority as determined by publishers.
The problem with this waterfall for buyers was not knowing what they were buying. Sometimes they were bidding on the same impression on different platforms. This created inefficiency in the market.
eMarketer: How prevalent is header bidding today?
Boffa: It’s a staple technology for publishers. [By enabling publishers to offer all of their inventory to buyers at once,] header bidding drives bids, drives transparency and makes connecting to buyers more efficient. Soon we’ll see the end of the waterfall method, as we move toward a header bidding ecosystem where publishers don’t want to only sell their inventory to partner A, B or C. They just want to sell their inventory to the best bidder.
eMarketer: Is header bidding evolving programmatic to be more beneficial for all parties involved?
Boffa: Yes, because it drives transparency. At eBay, we’re even taking header bidding a step further with parallel bidding, which is a solution we developed at eBay as a publisher. Like header bidding, we are able to call all buyers at the same time, but we are also providing them with more signals and information about our users. With header bidding and parallel bidding, buyers are not bidding in the dark anymore.
It also helps create an understanding of the price of impressions, especially when there’s a lot of information on users available, and builds a relationship between buyers and sellers. Header bidding is still in an emerging environment, but moving forward, it will trigger conversations about trust and transparency.
eMarketer: Are there any drawbacks to header bidding?
Boffa: I don’t see the drawbacks—I just see an opportunity to redefine the programmatic advertising space. The one limitation that currently exists is that header bidding mostly works across web technologies, meaning desktop and web, because they both use a web stack. But what is the future of mobile advertising and what is the future of header bidding in the native app environment? This is still something that buyers and publishers need to figure out.
eMarketer: Do you expect header bidding to drive consolidation of the programmatic space?
Boffa: It’s too soon to tell. Right now we’re still at the phase where buyers and publishers are creating a next-generation programmatic advertising platform. It’s still only the beginning for header bidding.