OpenX Launches A Prebid Solution For Small And Midsize Pubs

OpenX Prebid

Prebid, the industry’s open source header-bidding wrapper, is not easy to implement and configure.

Publishers have to constantly update code, fiddle with it to make sure it works with all of their supply-side platforms (SSPs), create default settings and timeouts and then test that the whole shebang is functioning properly.

While that’s doable for a large publisher with dedicated engineering and ad ops teams, it’s a heavy lift for smaller pubs with tight resources, said Paul Ryan, chief technology officer at OpenX and a Prebid board member.

So OpenX launched a solution on Thursday called Apollo designed to automate some of the complexities of Prebid to help smaller publishers get the most out of the product in a transparent way. OpenX is not making it mandatory for Apollo users to include its exchange in the wrapper.

“Prebid is daunting when you set it up for the first time,” Ryan said. “If you don’t have engineers that understand javascript or you don’t have ad ops people it becomes pretty hard.”

Despite the heavy lift, Prebid is appealing because it’s independent and open source, thereby allowing publishers to move away from walled garden solutions, such as Amazon Transparent Ad Marketplace (TAM) and Google Exchange Bidding. And, because it’s so configurable, Prebid gives publishers more control over how they operate their auctions and monetize their sites.

But the managed service solutions in market that aim to solve Prebid implementation complexities for smaller publishers tend to be opaque, Ryan said.

“You can’t play around with the configuration and run tests yourself,” he said. All you can do is “request somebody does something and look at the analytics later.”

Apollo is transparent in that publishers can optimize, test and run analytics and A/B tests for Prebid configurations themselves. The solution bundles and automates Prebid configurations to make them easy to set up and test on an ongoing basis. It also ensures publishers always have the most recent version of Prebid’s code, which is constantly being changed.

“We take away the pain of managing a bunch of javascript on the page,” Ryan said.

Apollo comes in three tiers with varying levels of automation to accommodate different types of publishers.

The free tier allows smaller publishers to configure their own Prebid setups and run analytics and tests quickly through a self-serve platform. The medium and enterprise tiers are less automated. OpenX offers implementation support and ongoing performance reviews depending on the size of a publisher’s engineering teams.

“We’re adding semi-automated optimization approaches and making it transparent,” Ryan said.

The tool also offers more flexibility for testing new Prebid configurations, he said.

For example, a publisher can test a deployment on a small percentage of traffic, rather than have to update the entire site. The ability to test quickly helps pubs get insight into the timeout rates of different SSPs, average CPMs or how adding an identifier changes yield.

“That kind of tight loop is going to help medium and small publishers get more of the benefit of Prebid, as opposed to set it and forget it,” Ryan said.

So far, OpenX has tested Apollo with three publishers, but plans to eventually onboard hundreds in the mid- to long-tail.

The company is building more automation into Apollo and creating solutions for larger publishers, including geo-parting, so that they can update their code by geography, as well as a managed service for Prebid’s mobile SDK.

“We’re trying to get Prebid out there as a standard everyone uses,” Ryan said. “It’s very important to help the publisher community maintain monetization through the ups and downs we’re going through.”

Apollo also offers server-side, client-side and hybrid Prebid implementations based on a publisher’s strategy. OpenX charges an SaaS fee to operate Apollo rather than a percentage of media spend, which is how most Prebid managed service providers charge.