Rubicon Project Beta Testing Header Bidding For Mobile Apps

Rubicon mobile header biddingHeader bidding is coming to mobile apps, via a solution Rubicon Project is beta testing with 20 publishers.

Early results for the product, FastLane, saw CPM increases of up to 300%. Rubicon will release the product more widely to publishers in Q1 of next year.

Unlike the mobile web or desktop, mobile apps bring in demand via SDKs, server-to-server integrations and APIs. But while mobile ad servers are newer, they haven’t solved the same problem that made header bidding popular on desktop: fragmented demand.

The two dominant mobile ad servers, MoPub and DoubleClick for Publishers, use price estimates of bids from RTB demand sources, not confirmed prices, to choose who gets to serve an ad. When publishers go by these estimates, they can lose out on revenue.

According to Rubicon mobile head Joe Prusz, greater pricing disparities on mobile mean publishers stand to lose more with a bad waterfall setup, and gain more by implementing header bidding on mobile apps.

“On mobile, we have a much wider distribution of demand. There are expandable ads, rich media, interstitials, video, all running in a single ad slot,” Prusz said. “One buyer might be buying a standard banner ad at $1 CPM, when there’s also a $15 video campaign.”

Because making updates to the ad stack requires a user to update an app, developers avoid making frequent changes to their waterfall setup, impacting yield, Prusz said.

“Given how hard it is to implement SDKs, they stay in, even if they’re no longer performing,” Prusz said. “The value proposition for header bidding in mobile app is greater because it bypasses that byzantine waterfall and the publisher doesn’t have to redo their waterfall in order to access more demand.”

To use the header bidding solution, mobile app publishers have to implement the FastLane SDK. It borrows the same concepts as Rubicon’s desktop and mobile web solution but codes them for mobile. Publishers using Rubicon’s ad server, which came from its acquisition of Mobsmith, don’t need to use FastLane because the capability has already been built in.

FastLane also supposedly has unique demand. It plugs into more than 170 mobile buyers, including desktop-first DSPs. Many publishers are setting up private marketplaces through the platform, with Rubicon citing a 1,400% growth in the past year in mobile orders transacted through the platform.

Tribune Publishing, which recently switched to FastLane from Rubicon’s first-generation header bidding solution on desktop and mobile web, saw the biggest CPM bumps on mobile, consistent with Prusz’s assessment of a mobile marketplace with widely varied CPMs. It expects the same will hold true when it joins the beta test for mobile app header bidding. Tribune will launch FastLane on all of its metro news apps, including for the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune later this week.

“For us, header bidding is about a more holistic view of inventory,” which translates to better yield, said Lori Tavoularis, VP of programmatic and platforms for Tribune Publishing. That’s why the company is using header bidding across desktop, mobile web and now its mobile apps.

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