MailOnline Debuts Video Header Bidding With Index Exchange

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The Daily Mail has begun running new technology designed to help it find higher bids for the video advertising it sells.
The Daily Mail has begun running new technology designed to help it find higher bids for the video advertising it sells. Credit: The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail's digital properties post about 1,600 stories and another 600 to 700 videos each day, garnering some 100 million views each month.

Like most publishers, MailOnline wants to make as much money as it can selling ad inventory around all that content without wreaking havoc on its user experience. The company was an early adopter of header bidding technology, which lets publishers take bids from multiple groups of buyers at once rather than proceeding through a "waterfall" of separate bidding groups and stopping at the first decent offer. In using it to sell display ads for about three years, the company saw "significant double-digit revenue and yield growth," Matt Wheatland, U.S. director of programmatic for MailOnline, said.

But when it came to making money on video, the publication felt like it was missing out. "We almost had a two-tier system -- direct first and all other programmatic buyers," Mr. Wheatland said. "And that's inefficient for quite a few reasons."

However, that changed earlier this month when MailOnline became among the first to adopt a video header bidding solution from the ad-tech firm Index Exchange. Women's retail site LittleThings was also a launch partner.

"The advantages we can get from video header bidding are all the same ones that we got from display header bidding," Mr. Wheatland said. "Greater exposure to inventory and more competition in the ad server. And better decisioning -- we're now going to have information on price before we make an allocation on the ad server."

Video header bidding is a natural progression for header bidding tech, which has focused on display ads. And it's a logical step for publishers, which are trying to cash in on advertisers' growing appetite for video advertising.

Although Index Exchange is among the first to offer a video solution, other ad-tech companies are expected to announce offerings of their own soon.

"There's a huge untapped potential in video today and we certainly recognize that," said Alex Gardner, senior VP of partner development at Index Exchange. "It has taken us a little bit of an effort to get us to where we want to be. Many other companies will follow, no question about that. But there will be a wider spectrum with video header bidding in terms of quality and capability."

Beyond increased competition, publishers eager to adopt video header bidding will first have to make sure they are savvy enough to do so. "There are a lot of smart publishers out there who feel pretty capable in the context of display, but with video there are complexities that make it more challenging," Mr. Gardner said. "There is a very specific reason why we're launching with LittleThings and the Daily Mail -- we know they are really good with this stuff and they also have technical proficiency and that arguably gives them a leg up."

On the back end, video header bidding is radically different than display. For starters, there is no header in a video player. ("Header" refers to where the code lives on publishers' sites that allows them to partake in programmatic selling.) Instead, video players act as an intermediary between the publisher's website and demand side platforms.

"While it is still called header bidding and the concept is the same the way in which you have to tackle it is very different than display," said Justin Festa, executive VP of digital at Little Things.

Mr. Festa credited Index Exchange for developing a solution that doesn't increase page load times, as ads are ready to roll by the time the user clicks play on a video. "To Index's credit they really get it and implement video header bidding with all the tweaks to video so it can function the way it should," he said.

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