Google Is Beta Testing Its Answer To Header Bidding, Called ‘DFP First Look’

DFP Header BiddingGoogle is beta testing a solution within DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) that will allow publishers to bring in high-value impressions before reserved inventory in their ad server.

Jonathan Bellack, Google’s director of product management, made the announcement at the IAB Ad Operations Summit on Monday during a discussion about header bidding that pitted Google (anti-header bidding) against AppNexus (pro-header bidding). Header bidding allows publishers to bring in programmatic bids before pinging their ad server, usually DFP, to get better yield than they can using the ad server’s priority and decisioning rules.

Demand Media, one of the beta partners of DFP First Look, pulled in some $100 CPM bids from a financial advertiser while testing the product, but overall impression volume was low, according to Daniel Bornstein, SVP of platform revenue.

Bellack countered that low impression volume helps publishers feel comfortable with bringing in programmatic demand before reserved inventory.

“Most publishers we talk to are nervous about having too high of a volume, that they’ll be siphoning away [from reserved inventory],” Bellack said.

Bellack said publishers were more likely to see not $100 CPMs, but $10 CPMs and an average 10% revenue lift.

If that performance holds, the DFP product would solve for one reason why publishers and buyers use header bidding. It allows buyers to see more inventory and cherry-pick high-value users, and that demand in turn improves yield for publishers.

But it wasn’t clear what demand Google would allow through DFP First Look. For it to truly unify demand and improve yield, it would need to include not just buyers using Google’s own exchange, AdX, but a broader array of buyers. Apparently, the first-look product does allow high-value remarketing buyers like Criteo, but they must use AdX to access this demand.

That Google would release a product to address header bidding is no surprise to many in the industry. AdExchanger sources have mentioned that Google was looking seriously at this issue as header bidding gained in popularity and awareness among publishers.

A major reason header bidding exists is because it’s impossible to unify demand within DFP, although Google has setups that allow AdX to compete. Header bidding allows publishers to go around that disadvantageous setup.

“The elephant in the room is that we as publishers have multiple partners we work with in bidding, but they won’t compete inside of Google’s ecosystem,” commented Joey Trotz, VP of advertising, data and ad product technology strategies for Turner Broadcasting, during the session.

Bellack, in shooting down the header bidding approach, talked about the high latency that can result from these client-side integrations. (Though some server-to-server header bidding setups exist, they require the buyer to decide beforehand which users it wants to buy, saving time during the ad call.)

“I agree that there is a lot of revenue opportunity in opening up a true first look to marketers,” Bellack said. “We just think the right way to do it is server-to-server programmatic pipes.”

But if that’s the case, some still wondered why Google hasn’t come out with such a product already.

“Publishers have had to force that competition,” Trotz said. “The waterfall is one way, and header bidding is another. We would love to have everyone compete server to server, but it doesn’t exist today.”


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  1. Ian Trider

    DFP enjoys “dynamic allocation” with AdX, where AdX auctions occur with the DFP call and allow DFP to evaluate RTB bids in conjunction with directly booked campaigns. As such, Google doesn’t “need” header bidding because they have their own mechanism for doing similar server-side. What I’m unclear on is, what exactly is this “DFP First Look” offering, and how exactly is it different than the pre-existing dynamic allocation?

    • Johannes Hansen

      Dynamic Allocation in dfp only occurs if the IOs are on schedule to guarantee delivery. WIth DFP First Look you can allocate a certain % (typically 1% or 2%) of your inventory as being eligible for first look buying. This setup makes it possible to sell the first look inventory at a much higher price.

      At least that is what our DFP account manager told me moments ago. We will be testing DFP first look in the coming weeks. 🙂

  2. Reinhold

    I doubt “First Look” will open up to demand outside of AdX. If it did, they probably would have already announced it. It’s more likely a product designed to sound like a header bidding solution in order to appease less informed publishers for as long as possible before they realize it’s not really header bidding.

  3. wondering how this affects Criteo if more demand side players now have an “in” to header bidding/first look and they’re no longer one of the only players with that advantage?

  4. What DSPs demand is not available on AdX? I had thought header bidding this was about cutting out the 20% AdX pub-fee (and only 20% – AdX doesn’t take on the buyside)?

  5. Marcin Ekiert

    What is relation of First Look and PMP (aka Private Auction). Looks much easier to select high-CPM buyers and add them to FL then to build buyers base on the PMP level (as they need to accept the deal). And the rest is general the same. Shall publishers keep PMP in this situation or close or PMPs and work with top CPM buyers on FL level?