As Header Bidding Heats Up, IAB Tech Lab Is Developing a New Set of Standards

It'll be open for public feedback until late July

IAB has proposed standards for header bidding. Getty Images
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As header bidding continues to gain stream this year, IAB Tech Lab is getting ready to establish a set of standards to guide publishers and media buyers through the process.

On Thursday, the IAB announced an initial outline for what it’s calling “Standard Header Container Integration with an Ad Server,” a nine-page document from the Header Tag Task Force established within the industry organization’s Tech Lab in 2016. Over the past year, header bidding, an automated ad-buying process that lets publishers auction inventory to many potential buyers before taking the best offer, has been increasingly popular, with companies like Facebook and AOL starting services this spring.

The proposed standards are in part inspired by several header bidding discussions with ad execs in January during IAB’s annual leadership meeting. Alanna Gombert, general manager of the IAB Tech Lab, said the document is meant to be more about “best practices” than it is a set of rules to follow.

“We can’t put out a standard without watching data and understanding the markets, so really, this was a response to initial header bidding needs,” she said. “It, by all means, is not a full solution.”

The standards are broken down into three sections, including subjects like how publishers can provide information to ad servers about various campaigns. Another section includes how to transfer data between publishers and advertisers. A third is focused on reporting ad impressions and how to deal with any discrepancy.

The standards, which are published on IAB’s website, will be open for public comment until July 28. Dozens of ad-tech companies participated in the document’s development, along with several publishers and platforms including Amazon, AOL, Facebook and Google. Partners on the ad-tech side include AppNexus, Criteo and Rubicon Project.

Michael Richardson, senior director of product line management for AppNexus, said the company supports IAB’s plans to standardize header bidding as an “open, transparent and fair solution” for publishers.

“Over the past couple of years, header bidding has become an important method for many publishers to increase the monetization of their inventory,” Richardson said via email. “AppNexus supports header bidding, and the open-source solution prebids, in particular, because it gives all demand sources equal access to each impression, allowing publishers to get a market price for their inventory and increase their revenue.”

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.