Mobile Developers: 3 Keys to Picking the Best Header Bidding Partner

The following is a guest contributed post by Pat McCormack, Vice President, Publisher Sales Americas – Oath

True in-app header bidding is finally here. This is the year that developers finally begin to bring the benefits of header bidding — a way to have a unified, simultaneous auction from all of the advertisers bidding on in-app inventory — into the monetization stack for their apps.

 Over the last several years, the mobile app ecosystem has had a front row seat to header bidding’s impact and evolution across desktop and mobile web. They saw  savvy publishers achieve a greater level of control and efficiency from their ad stack by pulling demand partners out of the waterfall and calling all of them at the same time. They saw the market respond with off-the-shelf  “wrappers” to get rid of the added latency from having so much additional partner code on the page. And, most recently, they saw header bidding evolve server-side.

 This perspective has helped developers learn how to be successful and start with a more advanced solution on day one. And for developers considering header bidding “container” solutions, which manage all header bidding partners a developer wants to use, their decisions need to be built around a few guiding principles. Here are three of the most critical.

Middleman for the Tech, ONLY

On a basic level, the role of the container is to help developers run a more efficient ads business. The container is a framework. It’s responsible for paving a road between demand partner and publisher.  But publishers should be able to have direct commercial relationships with the SSPs and ad networks they choose to sell to without the container taking a cut of it — unless there is value being added to the request (for example in the form of data). Otherwise, the road shouldn’t carry a fee. Think of a freeway rather than a tollway. Further, the container should not impede how the developer sells their data. Want some of your partners to be able to store/decision upon your data for 180 days? As the technology pipes, the container should let developers have freedom to do the deals they want. Too many solutions don’t do this.

Connect to Everyone

In pursuing the goal of making it easier for a developer to run their ad business, the container should focus on maximizing the channels that the inventory can be sold through. This means a commitment to building connections to the SSPs and ad networks that a publisher chooses to work with. When choosing the right container partner, it’s in the developer’s best interest to consider not just the connections the container has built today, but also those that may need to be built in the future. Given how quickly new players in the space can pop up and make an impact, there will almost certainly be a need to add a connection down the road. On average, the 500 largest publishers in the U.S. use about six vendors to sell their inventory. I encourage all developers to dig a level deeper in their diligence on prospective container partners and understand HOW the downstream connections are made from the container to the other SSPs/ad networks. This way, when the day comes that the developer wants to do a deal with a hot new ad network, they know the work will be minimal and can start working with them ASAP.

Transparency is the Default

There is a level of trust inherent to any strategic partnership. In this case, the developer is trusting that the container will be conducting the unified auction in the developer’s best interest. Now, I believe you should trust — but you should also verify. Does your container partner have ways for you to audit the auctions? How do you confirm that the impression is always going to the highest bidder? Or that the container is not advantaging their own demand, which happens too frequently? Asking these questions and understanding how the container is thinking about them can provide valuable insight into the philosophy guiding their product and should be part of the overall diligence. More transparency is always be better — and those vendors willing to be open about their practices are always the better option.

App developers are ready and excited to capitalize on the yield-maximizing benefits of a unified auction the way desktop publishers already have. Having seen the evolution of header bidding, app developers are now armed with information on exactly what to look for as they evaluate potential partners. The future here is bright.


Pat McCormack is Vice President, Publisher Sales Americas, at Oath, a Verizon subsidiary and the parent company of Yahoo, AOL, HuffPost, and other dynamic brands that serve a combined billion global consumers. Prior, Pat was Vice President of Publisher Sales for ONE by AOL: Publishers, at AOL Platforms, the advertising technology division of AOL. Before AOL, Pat was Vice President of Publisher Sales at Millennial Media, which AOL acquired in 2015. He held the same role at Nexage, which Millennial Media acquired a year earlier. Pat has also driven mobile ad sales strategies in senior roles at The Weather Channel and National Football League.