The Prebid Expert Series: An Interview with Pubmatic’s Nishant Khatri

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Prebid, header bidding, pubmatic, appnexus

This post is the fifth in our Prebid Expert series! In each installment, we’ll be speaking with someone close to the Prebid project – either as a contributor or a user – and learning about the benefits and best practices of using an open-source header bidding wrapper.

This time, we’re talking to Nishant Khatri. Nishant is the Senior Director of Product Management at PubMatic, a publisher-focused sell-side platform for an open digital media future. 

 

How has header bidding changed the way you work?

 

Header bidding has driven a mindset change in the industry. With header bidding wrappers, publishers have now experienced first-hand that they can put third-party code on their pages that both works reliably and drives revenue. Those benefits have made them more confident, so now they’re willing to embrace more creative solutions from independent ad tech companies. As a result, we have made several additions to our product offerings, including OpenWrap, an enterprise wrapper solution that provides an easy way to set up, deploy and manage Prebid.

Additionally, header bidding has led to increased collaboration with our peers in the industry. We have routine operational calls to ensure publishers are able to leverage the wrapper of their choice. Even this interview is a great example. PubMatic and AppNexus compete in many ways, but here we are talking about a tool that we manage together. This level of collaboration was almost unimaginable before 2015.

Coming from a product manager’s perspective, I’m enjoying the creative avenues that this has opened up for our industry.

 

What kind of work has PubMatic done with Prebid?

 

We were actually one of the first SSPs to release a Prebid-compatible tag. We were a bit hesitant to get involved at first. But we put that to rest once we understood what Prebid could do for publishers, and proactively began involving ourselves in developing principles of cooperation with other major SSPs. Today, in addition to building OpenWrap on top of Prebid, we’ve also provided lots of feedback to the Prebid team and contributed patches to both the core project and to Prebid Server.

We’ve become even more involved now that we’ve joined Prebid.org. We’ve already identified portions of OpenWrap that can be contributed back to the community and merged into Prebid so publishers can deploy Prebid more easily. As a general matter, we’re aligned with Prebid.org’s goal of making it easier for every publisher to use header bidding.

The reason we’ve been so eager to get involved – besides the benefits for publishers – is that we believe open source technology is the best way to uphold the values of transparency and fairness, which have proven essential for header bidding’s adoption and success. We’ve worked with proprietary wrappers and the experience is sub-optimal. In those closed environments, we have to dig to discover why performance doesn’t match the levels we achieve with similar publishers using open source solutions. The experience with open source is different. We know there is no explicit or implicit bias in Prebid. We can make changes to ensure that our latest tech can be leveraged. It’s a long way of saying that we can ensure that our business interests aren’t being compromised. Isn’t that the smart thing to do?

 

What best practices would you recommend to publishers using Prebid?

 

Again, one of the key benefits of Prebid is that it’s open source. As the primary users of Prebid, publishers need to provide feedback and keep the channels of communication open, especially in a fast-moving technical context such as this.

My observation is that many publishers are purpose-oriented and don’t always share as much feedback once their integration is complete. However, I’ve also observed that the publishers who are most successful with Prebid are usually the ones who stay involved and provide feedback after the initial implementation, so that improvements can be identified and folded into the wrapper more quickly. As Prebid expands into server-to-server, as well as new formats like mobile, native, and video, this feedback becomes even more valuable, since each of those channels have their own unique issues. As a publisher, giving feedback is a way to ensure Prebid evolves in such a way as to suit your unique use case.

More publisher feedback makes Prebid a more powerful tool, which is a good thing for all publishers, as well as the rest of the ecosystem.

 

What should publishers look for as they decide which demand partners to work with through their header bidding wrapper?

 

The core promise of header bidding is increased yield. So first and foremost, publishers should look for partners who are contributing meaningfully to their yield – not just overall, but across all channels and regions they operate in. PMP, PMPG, and the like should be a part of this consideration as well.

Another thing to look for is transparency in fee structures – that’s an issue people are talking about a lot today. Your partners also need to be technically strong to provide a good user experience in terms of latency and ad quality.

Finally, as header bidding moves server-side, publishers need to account for additional factors. We have a lot of experience bidding into publishers whose ad decisioning systems send a server-to-server ad call. However, there are important differences between that and the hybrid setup many publishers are trying out, in which some header bidding partners are contacted client-side and some server-side. The key piece of advice there for publishers is to continue testing and learning. There are some generalized observations that we can already make, but there is a lot still to be played out in terms of cookie matching and auction types, which are going to have a significant impact on publisher monetization.

 

What excites you the most about the future of the header bidding wrapper?

 

Two key themes stand out in my mind. We really like the strides header bidding has made in the last two years and we are looking forward to the initiatives related to Prebid mobile, video, and native. It’s still early for header bidding in those areas and there are opportunities to solve a lot of publisher problems.

Take mobile apps, for example. App publishers today have to rely on the mediation process and multiple SDKs to monetize. Those SDKs make the app heavier, reduce the level of performance, and installing them takes up already-limited engineering resources. Mobile app publishers in 2017 shouldn’t have to go through all that just to work with their preferred demand partners, but they don’t really have a choice since they have to monetize somehow. Header bidding gives them a much more elegant solution.

The second thing I’m excited about is Prebid.org – we really think it’s the right time for that organization to come together. As the industry starts looking at the applicability of Prebid across formats, Prebid.org enables collaboration to develop more flexible, effective solutions.

Want to know more about the future of header bidding? Download our latest white paper to learn everything you need to know, including info on choosing the right demand partners, whether server-to-server is right for you, and more!

Filed under AppNexus Updates, Industry Perspectives.

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