Programmatic advertising began shaping up in the mid-2000s with the emergence of real-time bidding (RTB) technology. Over the past 15+ years, we've witnessed significant innovations and transformative shifts, including header bidding, the implementation of GDPR, and the rise of AI in the industry.
While these rapid changes make programmatic advertising an exciting arena, they can also overwhelm industry professionals. With so many new developments happening concurrently, navigating the landscape and making the right choices can become challenging.
Drawing from our experience collaborating with over 300 publishers and sales networks, Relevant Digital has recognised that, sometimes, the best way to move forward is to revisit the fundamentals. That's why we've crafted this article, focusing on the common mistakes to avoid to run successful programmatic sales. These are often essential aspects that tend to be overlooked but can yield significant and noticeable results when given proper attention.
Critical factors in ad format selection
The criticality of choosing ad formats in programmatic advertising is particularly highlighted when considering how different formats affect advertisers' interest and the consequent demand directed towards the media. A common mistake in choosing ad formats is opting for too narrow or rare ad formats and not monitoring the performance and potential trends of the ad formats.
Many new dynamic and interactive solutions have emerged alongside traditional formats like banners and text ads. Video formats, especially on mobile devices, have also exploded in popularity. The demand for mobile inventory reflects the growth in mobile usage and users' shift from desktops to smartphones and tablets.
Considering internationally used ad formats is essential, enabling advertisers to reach different markets. For instance, global brands may seek unified advertising solutions that work across multiple markets and choose standardised formats to facilitate the scalability and management of ad campaigns. User experience also must be considered in the selection of ad formats. Overly aggressive or disruptive ad formats can negatively impact the site's user experience and, thus, user engagement. Therefore, finding a balance between ad effectiveness and site usability is crucial.
In choosing ad formats, their effectiveness and revenue generation should be evaluated. Utilising analytics and data helps to understand which formats perform best and resonate with the target audience. Continuous monitoring of market trends, testing, and optimisation are vital in maximising the potential of ad formats in programmatic advertising.
Impact of ad placement on programmatic sales
Ad placement and visibility on the website are crucial factors for programmatic revenue. Mistakes related to ad placements often include positioning them in a way that compromises ad visibility, having an excessive number of ad placements on site, and declining website usability due to the ad placements.
Aim to position ad placements in the most visible areas of the site, such as the top or middle of the page. Ensure that ads are also visible to visitors. Viewability is measured by in-screen values, which usually indicate the proportion of displays visible to the visitor by at least 50%. Advertisers are increasingly focusing on ad viewability. If in-screen values are poor, at least savvy advertisers may not be interested in buying inventory. Monitor the in-screen values of your ad placements and strive to take action to improve them.
For ad placements to be attractive, they must align with the site's content and user experience. Adding too many or poorly planned ad placements can degrade the user experience and reduce site visits. This directly affects the amount and quality of ad revenue. Therefore, optimising requires a balance between viewability and user experience. The technical implementation of ad spaces also plays a crucial role. Techniques such as lazy loading, which loads ads only when they become visible on the user's screen, can improve ad loading speeds and, thus, the user experience. Sticky ads, which remain fixed in a specific part of the screen as the user scrolls, can increase ad visibility and effectiveness.
Many factors influence ad placements, such as the target audience, site content, and technical environment. By making conscious choices and continuously monitoring market developments, you can ensure that your ad spaces optimally serve advertisers' and users' needs, positively impacting your revenues.
Considerations for setting floor prices
When you set floor prices too high in OpenRTB because you're worried about losing out, your inventory may end up unsold. To avoid this, monitor your bid levels, assess lost bids, and calculate potential revenue losses due to high floor prices. Adjust them based on your data.
Additionally, check if your direct and deal sales generate enough revenue to justify skipping OpenRTB. Remember, direct and deal sales usually take priority, so don't worry too much about losing revenue because OpenRTB might be cheaper.
We aim to simplify things in this article and suggest keeping your floor price setup straightforward. Ask yourself these questions to refine your rules:
- Do the rules cover all necessary inventory?
- Should I use one rule per geographic location?
- Is it essential to separate prices for specific ad sizes based on users' geographic locations, especially if they are from distant countries?
Keeping your floor price rules straightforward and clean can make your programmatic selling process more efficient and effective.
Role of performance insights
The lack of performance insights makes troubleshooting and optimisation challenging. Without the correct data, fluctuations in revenue remain shrouded in uncertainty, relying solely on hypotheses for explanations.
While unexpected revenue boosts can bring a smile, they should be investigated as revenue downturns. Understanding the root causes behind revenue shifts empowers sellers to position themselves strategically in the market.
Prevention is critical when it comes to losses. Transforming analytics into real-time alarms ensures swift action whenever anomalies arise, saving valuable operational time.
A recent example from one of our clients illustrates this point. They transitioned to a new CMP that didn't pair well with Prebid, potentially leading to a substantial revenue drop. Thanks to the real-time analytics provided by Relevant Yield, they identified and addressed the issue promptly. This immediate response prevented more extensive revenue losses, which may not have been as quickly noticeable through on-site monitoring as the stack was still delivering.
Impact of technical implementation
Various techniques can affect the revenue you get from your inventory. Regarding technical implementations, a common mistake in programmatic advertising sales is not having an up-to-date or optimal implementation considering the unique effects of the media environment.
Traditionally, publishers have managed their ad prioritisation via their ad server. Already, an outdated method in which programmatically sold ads are called consecutively from the servers of different advertising partners is called the Waterfall model. Header bidding is a technique in which the publisher adds a code snippet to the site that allows the publisher to offer an ad display for auction to multiple parties simultaneously before the ad call is sent to the publisher’s server. Naturally, the ad display goes to the one with the highest bid.
Prebid has gained popularity among publishers as an open-source header bidding solution offering many advantages. The key factors behind its success include increasing ad revenue, improving transparency and control, optimising user experience, and providing a flexible and scalable solution that evolves with the constantly changing digital advertising landscape. Prebid offers two technically different approaches to header bidding: client-side and server-side implementations.
The header bidding process occurs in the user's browser in a client-side implementation. The browser sends bid requests to multiple demand partners simultaneously. This implementation is usually deployed using the Prebid.js library. In a server-side implementation, the process occurs on a server instead of the user's browser. This approach may require more complex infrastructure and integration management than the client-side solution. For server-side deployment, you can choose an external service provider or build the solution using the Prebid framework.
Both implementation methods have strengths, and choosing between them can be challenging. The performance of different systems varies, as do the audiences, websites, and markets. For this reason, we recommend that publishers develop a testing culture that facilitates easy comparisons between various implementations. This ensures optimal performance and supports the continuous evolution of innovative ad sales. In addition to the benefits, testing can be fun and educational, especially when using tools that enable tests to be conducted quickly, efficiently, and with low risk.
You can quickly implement, manage, and optimise your Header Bidding setup with Relevant Yield's HB Manager - read more here. HB Analytics helps with analytics optimisation. You can read more about it here.
Best practices for ADS.txt
ADS.txt, short for Authorised Digital Sellers, has a clear mission: enhancing transparency within the programmatic advertising ecosystem. It offers a straightforward, adaptable, and secure approach that publishers and distributors can employ to publicly identify the companies they authorise to sell their digital inventory.
One common mistake we see is RESELLER/DIRECT being mislabeled. The general rule goes as follows (with exceptions, of course):
- Owned & Operated by the Publisher = DIRECT.
- Directly in operation with the Publisher = DIRECT.
- Networks, 3rd-party incremental demand, outside operated demand sources = RESELLER. We recommend including only what's necessary and removing anything that isn't revenue-justified to prevent an overly crowded ads.txt.
Furthermore, it's extremely important to keep your ads.txt current whenever there are changes to your sources. A clear ads.txt creates greater transparency in the inventory supply chain and gives publishers control over their inventory in the market. This, in turn, makes it harder for bad actors to profit from selling counterfeit inventory across the ecosystem.
Consent management's effect
With CCPA and GDPR in place and becoming increasingly stringent, the way publishers collect and monetise consent is now more critical. It's not just about getting a 'yes,' but also how you ask for permission. Sometimes, delaying the Consent Management Platform (CMP) and auctions proceeding without consent can lead to violations. The solution? Ensure your setup is configured correctly to make the auction wait for consent.
Another standard error is setting a short CMP timeout, particularly for first-time page visitors. Publishers should consider implementing a two-step timeout system (a technical timeout for CMP to load and an action timeout to allow visitors to make their selections). This ensures that first-time visitors have enough time to choose their consent preferences. Make sure the vendor list is up to date!
More information on the Transparency and Consent Framework developed by IAB in collaboration with technology providers can be found here. Please ensure that the site complies with applicable laws and regulations so that any negligence does not adversely affect the programmatic sales of your advertising.
Hopefully, these insights will help you to improve your programmatic sales. However, it's not always as simple as just getting started; help and support may sometimes be needed, especially if your skills or resources are limited.
About Relevant Digital’s Services
If you plan to programmatically sell your site’s advertising inventory, increase your programmatic revenue or modernise your operating models (for example, Header Bidding or Prebid.js) – Relevant Digital is the right partner for your needs.
For instance, we have a lot of positive commercial experiences of using Header Bidding. In addition to programmatic development, we are happy to help you with ads.txt and consent. Consulting and services are always produced individually so that we can tailor your solution for the best and most efficient results. You can read more about our services here.
In addition to Programmatic services and consultation, Relevant Digital has developed a unified platform, Relevant Yield, for Programmatic sellers to streamline operations and improve yield. You can read more about it here.