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Amazon’s new header-bidding play could speed pages

December 06, 2016

By Jessica Davies

Amazon is reportedly launching a cloud-based header-bidding solution, aimed at competing with Google. Details of the product are sparse, but the theory is that it would be Amazon’s first wrapper tag, which can be embedded on publishers pages.

Newspaper publishers including MailOnline and Trinity Mirror have been using Amazon’s header-bidding technology for the last two years. Nat Poulter, programmatic director at MailOnline, said an Amazon cloud-based wrapper tag would provide more opportunity for publishers to access “unique and differentiated” demand, compared to other exchanges, in what’s become a highly commoditized SSP landscape.

“Amazon has never been keen to work through a third-party wrapper because potentially there is a risk that its unique understanding of user value can be reverse-engineered and captured by competitors,” he said. “It makes sense that it build its own wrapper. It makes sense for publishers to work closely with Amazon as a buyer. We’ve been using A9’s header bidder for years with success.”

That said, there would be certain conditions for this to work. For starters, Amazon would need to aggregate all demand from across the entire digital ad ecosystem and run it server side for it to be truly valuable, according to Poulter.

“They are going to come across the same issues Google and OpenX are having,” he said. “There is very little collaboration or cooperation in ad tech right now, and, as such, everything is grinding to a halt.”

Header bidding, which allows buyers to bid on online ads simultaneously, is popular among publishers. MailOnline has claimed programmatic revenues have risen 48 percent as a direct result of using header bidding, and CNN International has also seen rises, as has Trinity Mirror.

“We have seen double-digit uplifts in eCPMs, so the concept works for us, but we still have some way to go to be truly holistic across every ad sell,” said Rob Bradley, CNN International’s vp of digital commercial strategy and revenue. He added that CNN International would be open to anything that can further prove programmatic yields, including Amazon’s solution, as long as it doesn’t overcrowd its existing ad stack.

And yet, other publishers like the Financial Times have held back due to the page-latency issues header bidding causes. Anthony Hitchings, the FT’s digital advertising operations director, is skeptical about the tech’s promise.

“Header bidding is a fix to a symptom rather than the root cause, which is the second-price auction,” he said.

Meanwhile, Amir Malik, Trinity Mirror’s programmatic chief, is wary that Amazon’s move could just cede more control to a third ad tech giant outside Google and Facebook, which already dominate digital ad spend.

“It could be the staging ground for Amazon’s launch as a major digital supply channel to the agencies. We want to tackle the duopoly, but is it wise to create a ‘triopoly’ with another walled garden?” he said.

And there are also potential conflicts of interest. Amazon buys a lot of advertising itself. “What happens if Facebook, which is supposedly building something too, decides to build its own wrapper and become a mediation …read more

Source:: Digiday