“No one likes to be surprised by the bill”: Bringing buyers into the header bidding conversation

With header bidding positioned as a publisher solution, buyers are getting left out of important conversations about the mechanics of these deals, giving them less incentive to bid with publishers that are leaving them in the dark. Publishers can put more importance on buyer relationships by talking openly with buyers about header bidding deals.

In working closely with buyers and publishers on their programmatic deals, Erik Requidan, vp of sales and programmatic strategy at Intermarkets, Inc., has learned the wrong way for publishers to talk to buyers. “Don’t show up and tell me you have a 300 by 600 and it costs $7 or $22.50,” said Requidan. “That’s a terrible conversation.” Buyers are interested in the finer details each relationship, and if publishers can learn to accommodate this, they will set themselves up for long term success with header bidding.

Transparency: Buyers need more to defend the spend.

Header bidding can feel like a losing game for buyers when they have no idea if they’re really getting premium impressions. They need to understand the bids they’re up against and see performance reports so they can defend the resources they allocate to header bidding solutions. “You can’t be a publisher that sits back and just says, ‘Hey, give me a bigger check every month,’” said Requidan. Buyers are less inclined to respond to that.

Publishers can address this issue by taking a closer look at the details of campaign performance and analyzing specifics for individual buyers. Requidan suggests that publishers create “unique identifiers” for header bidding deals, pieces of code that can track them and make the data more measurable for buyers. This allows publishers to tell buyers exactly how many impressions they got through their last header bidding campaign and charge based on that value.

Otherwise, said Requidan, it’s like going to a restaurant where “none of the food items have any pricing on them.” No one likes to be surprised by the bill.

Individual attention: “You need to be focused on what your buyer needs.”

Publishers can parse offerings to buyers like this, said Requidan: “Think of [header integrations] sort of like highways directly to you. We’ve built this for you.” Header integrations can create a “direct path” between buyers and publishers when publishers “actually work with the demand team with an integrated partner” to build them, said Requidan. This lets buyers know that the publishers’ integrations were built with their needs in mind, not as a generic solution from the publishers’ tech partners.

CafeMedia, which has been running header bidding partners across its media properties for close to four years, does “quarterly business reviews” with header bidding clients. In these reviews, CafeMedia covers what the buyer spent with them, audience metrics and goals for the next quarter. “We spend a lot of our time on talking to buyers and setting up private market places and programmatic guaranteed,” said Paul Bannister, evp at CafeMedia, who takes a direct approach to his programmatic sales. As a result, CafeMedia has been able to sustain relationships with the same header bidding clients for years.

 Speaking the language: “Buyers speak in the form of bids and CPMs.”

Really, buyers don’t even use words like “direct” or “indirect” to refer to a publisher’s sales team. “This is a language that publishers have created,” Requidan explained. He suggests publishers not get hung up on the distinction between “direct” versus “programmatic” and take time to learn how to talk to buyers in terms they actually use.

When his clients first moved over to header-based programmatic, Bannister “spent a fair amount of a year” explaining the nuts and bolts. Now, he mostly speaks to his header bidding clients in terms of a campaign’s results—metrics buyers are fluent in, like viewability and audience demographics.

Buyers also want to know how many times they bid for a publisher’s inventory the previous year and whether the publisher does header deals differently with different ad exchanges, Requidan said. Publishers can offer up details like, “what DSPs [the buyer] bought most of the publisher’s inventory through last year and at which prices.”

Ultimately, “Buyers speak in the form of bids and CPMs,” he said. If publishers can communicate fluently and transparently about that, they can hold onto their header bidding clients for the long haul.


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