After the outstanding success of Prebid.js, a client-side header bidding wrapper, Prebid launched its server-side solution.
With third-party cookies leaving the market, Prebid Server might just be the solution we need to keep the adoption rate of header bidding intact.
This is why we decided to post an explainer to provide an in-depth understanding of this solution and evaluate its potential.
What is Prebid Server?
Prebid Server is an open-source server-to-server header bidding solution.
With Prebid Server, HB auctions run on the server-side rather than the user’s browser, which keeps latency in check, resulting in better UX.
When header bidding made it to the market, it was readily adopted by many publishers. And one of the reasons was the transparency it offered as opposed to solutions offered by ad tech giants like Google.
Page latency and limitation in terms of bidders added to auction were some other common issues with client-side header bidding. To counter that, a server-side solution was launched by Prebid in 2017.
Prebid Server and Prebid.js can easily be used in conjunction—a case of hybrid header bidding. Using these two together allows publishers to run two auction types simultaneously, opportunity to call multiple demand partners, minimize browser requests, and improve overall ad revenue.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Prebid Server?
Since Prebid Server is a server-side header bidding solution, most benefits are similar to the usual difference between client- and server-side.
- Improved transparency: The open-source, community-managed nature of this technology makes it easier for publishers to view bid transaction data. Comparing it to Amazon’s TAM and Google’s Open Bidding, ad tech giants that function like a walled garden, Prebid Server offers a clearer view of the supply chain.
- Reduced page latency: Another reason to choose server-side implementation is reduced latency. As mentioned earlier, server-side header bidding takes the auction to the server rather than the user’s browsers (as in the case of client-side header bidding). This allows page content to load independent of the ad auction, allowing time for both content to load and the server to conclude the auction.
- Add multiple demand partners: Since making multiple ad calls is not an issue with server-side auctions, publishers have a chance to add more bidders. With new bidders entering the market every day, this is the right solution to leverage most (if not all) of the demand in the market. It is recommended to set auction timeouts, irrespective of how many bidders are added to the Prebid setup. This is to make sure that the auctions finish at the right time for users to view an ad.
- Unified auctions: Instead of managing and setting up each ad unit separately for different wrappers, publishers choose Prebid for unified auctions. With Prebid unified auctions, publishers can get the performance reports of all bidders in one place. The same can be expected from Prebid Server—to unite both client-side and server-side auctions and provide publishers the real benefits of unified auction.
How to Get Started With a Prebid Server?
Step 1: Find a server to host auctions
To get started with Prebid Server, publishers first need a server to host the auctions. They can either set up their own server or partner-up with hosted servers that support Prebid auctions (like AppNexus and Rubicon Project).
Step 2: Update or download Prebid.js with server setup enabled
Publishers who are already using Prebid.js need to update it with Prebid Server code. And the rest of the publishers need to download the Prebid.js with Prebid Server enabled.
Step 3: Add adapters and customize the campaign
The next steps involve configuring adapters and setting up the auctions. Just like Prebid.js, Prebid Server also requires engineering interventions. Publishers who are already using Prebid.js can ask their existing teams to enable the server-side set up as well.
Being open-source and community-driven makes Prebid a reliable solution for many sellers. However, with that, it brings challenges to either have engineering abilities to set up and monitor campaigns or hire someone with expertise.
Server-side auctions are preferred for their advantages like unified auction, reduced latency, and better user experience. Server-side auctions previously had issues like compliance with client-side auctions, additional set up to run targeted ads, and limited demand. Most of these challenges have been solved now.
Prebid Server offers a solution to these problems. With over 300 bidders, limited demand is no longer a concern. The use of third-party cookies will soon be off the market, solving concerns of relying on additional user matching layers specifically to run the server-to-server auction. The fact that Prebid Server is a Prebid.org product, means that it supports the integration with the client-side auction (Prebid.js) as well.
Finally, the success of the Prebid Server depends on the publisher revenues. The more revenue they make, the faster adoption will happen, and buyers will continue to buy impressions in a transparent ecosystem.