Bankrate On Board For Server-Side Header Bidding

server-side-bankrateWhen Bankrate decided to add header bidding late last year, it chose a server-side solution.

“When we did our RFI [request for information], it became clear to me that server-to-server is a much better and more enhanced version of header bidding,” said Irene Kwak, VP of revenue operations for Bankrate.

The financial publisher plans to implement the solution, which is from Sonobi, in the first quarter of this year.

Adding header bidding is part of a year-long push for the publisher to create a programmatic infrastructure and increase programmatic revenue. Bankrate was a late adopter, and its 20-person sales force, which works with endemic advertisers like banks, focused on data-driven IO deals tied to metrics like cost per lead or cost per opened account.

Bankrate wasn’t doing a lot of programmatic when Kwak joined in 2016. “But I saw a lot of value in our audience,” she said.

She started by switching ad servers from Open AdStream (OAS) to DoubleClick For Publishers (DFP), which allowed the company to add in the Google AdExchange and multiple SSPs. With that basic infrastructure in place and optimized, Bankrate “maxed out what we can do with the tech stack we have,” Kwak said. “eCPMs were plateauing.” In order to get to the next level, she turned to adding in header bidding this fall.

Server-side header bidding would minimize latency by avoiding the bottleneck caused by running auctions in a user’s browser. And Kwak likes that Bankrate will maintain its own financial relationships with its partners. “We collect the check from the demand source, not from Sonobi,” she said. Other server-side solutions have the intermediary handle payments.

While SSPs have traditionally been valued by publishers by how big of a check they can write, that wasn’t why Kwak chose the tech, she said. Instead, Bankrate plans to use the server-side bidding as a tool to bring in header-bidding demand partners.

During the implementation of server-side header bidding next year, Bankrate plans to move its SSP partners in the ad server to a spot within Sonobi’s solution. Kwak identified a number of demand partners that she wants to fold into the solution.

Implementing server-side header bidding requires more than just dropping a tag on the page. Testing latency will be the biggest focus, but Bankrate also plans to run tests to ensure that the code on page (which then calls the connected servers and runs the auction) doesn’t interfere with any other of the site code.

Bankrate collects all of its bid data in order to measure revenue per page. As the implementation progresses, it will connect to places like Google Analytics to compare revenue per page against other metrics like bounce rate and page load speed.

Bankrate needs to collect data because it guarantees certain KPIs, like cost per lead/click/acquisition, for its clients.

“The direct strategy is following what’s happening in programmatic,” Kwak said. “[Advertisers] are going to cherry-pick the audiences they want, whether they are retargeting or driving to a certain KPI, or looking for data matching. I don’t see any friction between the direct and programmatic side.”

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