Amazon’s server-side bidding product gets off to slow start in UK

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Amazon a week ago rolled out its cloud-based server-side bidding product that it delivers via Transparent Ad Marketplace, or TAM, to European countries including the U.K., Germany, France, Spain and Italy. So far, U.K. publishers haven’t rushed to jump on board.

Many major national publishers are eyeing TAM, but several said they aren’t convinced it’s worth their while, fearing they would leave themselves vulnerable to yet another tech platform with a different agenda than their own. Others have opted out due to unanswered questions about how agnostic Amazon will be with its demand.

“The verdict is still out,” said a publishing executive that is testing the service.

Several publishers said they found TAM quicker and simpler to implement than other header-bidding partners. But more important, site speed — the feature anticipated to be a differentiator for Amazon’s offering — has improved since implementation due to TAM’s ad call speeds. TAM’s default speed for ad calls is 200 milliseconds, according to sources.

The Telegraph and Trinity Mirror were among the early partners of TAM, both having pursued header bidding and server-side bidding strategies. Bauer Xcel Media, the U.S. offshoot of European women’s magazine publisher Bauer Media, recently revealed that its average page-load time across devices dropped from 12 seconds in January 2017 to between 4 and 5 seconds as a direct result of implementing TAM. Bauer’s U.K. team is now eager to implement TAM, hoping to see similar results.

Other publishers with advanced header-bidding strategies are keen to test the Amazon server-side product to see if it helps drive up revenues. They also want to understand more about the transparent auction mechanics the platform offers, such as publishers’ and SSPs’ access to auction-level reporting, to maximize rate for their inventory via TAM. Publisher reporting includes metrics such as earnings, eCPM, bid rate, win rate and timeout rate by SSP.

One publisher, which tested TAM ahead of its official rollout last week, said display revenue from TAM has been “encouraging,” increasing threefold over a two-month period. Given the implementation occurred in the last few months of 2017, the publisher will assess if those numbers are representative of the average revenue to be expected or skewed by seasonal shifts.

Others are waiting for Amazon to increase the number of demand partners it has integrated before jumping on board. All are interested to see if TAM can offer an alternative or even incremental value to Google’s header-bidding version, exchange bidding dynamic allocation, or EBDA.

“We use dynamic allocation but have no interest in testing EBDA. The mechanics around the Google auction are still too opaque when I compare them with others in the market, including Amazon,” said a publishing executive at a magazine group. “TAM is not quite the full package yet. That will come when Amazon allows publishers to sell PMPs to buyers using Amazon data and transact this via TAM, but as a first pass, the offering is a step in the right direction.”

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