Julie Clark will speak at AdExchanger’s PROGRAMMATIC I/O Conference in New York on Oct. 26.
Hearst had deployed header bidding for years before it became one of the industry’s hot topics.
As a veteran user of header bidding, Hearst focuses on adapting it to make programmatic buying more efficient for marketers and publishers.
“The old way would be to send someone 10 pairs of shoes, hoping they will like two of them,” explained Julie Clark, VP of programmatic sales at Hearst Core Audience.
With header bidding, publishers can show marketers two pairs of shoes they will most likely want.
Header bidding brings marketers and publishers closer to the promise of programmatic: finding the right audience for the right price to further a marketer’s efforts, Clark said
Using header bidding, Hearst prioritizes key marketer partners, who get the best access to highly cookied users. But it also uses the tech to boost yield.
Hearst’s strategy isn’t the only way to use header-bidding tech. What’s often lost in the noise of header bidding is how flexible the technology is, Clark said.
Each publisher can choose a different set of header-bidding partners and in turn use the 16 different priority levels in the ad server. Turning those knobs different ways can drive different publisher strategies dramatically.
Clark talked to AdExchanger about how Hearst is thinking about header bidding and the changing ways it sees buyers and sellers transacting programmatically.
AdExchanger: Is header bidding shifting the pendulum of power back to the sell side?
JULIE CLARK: Over the past 12 to 18 months, I’ve seen a swing in general back to premium content. Programmatic was simply a DR [direct-response] and efficiency engine historically. Now new technology allows for more expansive means of targeting and KPI achievement.
It’s moving into a premium inventory and effectiveness category now, where both things can be done. Branding represents the biggest uptick in programmatic spend in recent months. There is now a higher willingness to pay for truly premium inventory.
Is that shift to premium driven by agencies like GroupM publicly stating they want to pull out of open exchanges and focus spend to private exchanges?
Sure, that’s certainly part of it. Agencies overall want to ensure that they are leveraging the programmatic space not only for efficiency, but for brand safety and user experience. We are seeing marketers saying, “I want to put as much of my digital budget as possible in programmatic execution,” but there is also an understanding that there are many products that can’t be transacted programmatically because of the high level of customization.
Are you seeing programmatic and direct campaigns being planned in the same place, as some agencies dissolve their trading desks or embed the programmatic team?
Like many things, it depends on the agency. It depends on the client. I see trading desks and their teams working more closely with the planning teams of the holding companies. It used to be more of a grudge match, where [the budget] was “going direct” or “going programmatic,” and never in the middle could they meet. The conversations are coming together, and it’s beneficial for all parties.
Does Hearst use a header-bidding wrapper?
Hearst leverages our own proprietary wrapper, which was in development prior to their prevalence in the marketplace. There is a concern in the market from our agency and client partners that there may be built-in bias with a third-party wrapper. While we have not seen evidence of the bias, we do strive for a fully agnostic environment where our own proprietary wrapper plays a major role.
Are you able to productize any of your header-bidding implementations?
My dream is to build out an audience guaranteed, where [the marketers] could own their audience. We would do an audience upfront, where we guaranteed a marketer’s audience for them programmatically. We have the capability to do that now; it’s really about packaging it.
Is header bidding a hack, or does it mark a transition point in the industry?
Header bidding has provided a great conversation [point] for the marketplace to understand how premium inventory works, think about yield analysis and leverage technology in a sophisticated way in a programmatic environment. I’ve been around long enough to know that things evolve quickly. That’s the beauty of the programmatic environment. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t think anything is a single solution.
This interview has been condensed and edited.