Google accelerates its header bidding alternative under pressure from Facebook

Google is preparing for the open beta of its exchange bidding dynamic allocation (EBDA) solution, having added dozens of technology partners and hundreds of publishers as pressure mounts from both Facebook and smaller advertising platforms.

The open beta is expected to start in early May, according to Ad Age, which cited insiders with direct knowledge of the program. Google has made no official announcement on when the program is expected to begin, beyond “in the coming months”.

Last week, Facebook announced that it would be bringing advertiser demand from its Audience Network to mobile web publishers that use header bidding, potentially scooping Google on a feature that many publishers have been demanding. Now, publishers will be able access advertisers coming through the Facebook Audience Network using a variety of technology partners including open-source solutions.

With this increased pressure from its primary rival, alongside the recent controversies over brand safety, Google needs to step up its fight against header bidding, which is largely perceived as a way of levelling the playing field against Google’s dominant DoubleClick system.

Quite how EBDA will function and whether it will enable Google to effectively fight back against the rise of header bidding remains to be seen. Header bidding’s more transparent process provides publishers with higher yields and disrupts DoubleClick’s hold over the programmatic system by eliminating the preferred spot for Google’s Adx ad exchange.

While header bidding has seen significant adoption by publishers and has been held up by many as the future of programmatic, there was a perception among some that it was still a ‘workaround’, designed purely to avoid DoubleClick. Facebook’s adoption of the technology, which brings with it established names like AppNexus, Amazon, Index Exchange and Sonobi, lends header bidding legitimacy and raises its profile even further.

Google’s scale means that any challenges against it have an uphill battle ahead of them, but with Facebook on the side of header bidding, it means that the search giant must now prioritise offering a real alternative to publishers, most likely in the form of greater transparency and improved quality. According to Google, the closed beta for EBDA has yielded encouraging results for everyone involved.

“Exchanges are building their businesses with improved inventory access, and new players are ramping up their buying or opening negotiations with us weekly,” said Jonathan Bellack, director of product management at Google. “We are profoundly excited about the potential of exchange bidding to help our publishers improve their yields and exchanges to grow their businesses, without compromising user experience.”

We will likely have to wait until the introduction of the open beta to truly understand Google’s offering, but it has become clear that the firm needs to step up its efforts if it wants to retain its dominant position in the programmatic ecosystem.