John Potter, chief technology officer, Purch 
Most publishers are slow to adopt server-to-server connections because they don’t have the technical know-how to integrate and scale these products. But under the direction of John Potter, tech network Purch — which runs websites like Live Science and Top Ten Reviews — built its own server-side product and has sold 100 percent of its display inventory through it since November. Potter says going to server-to-server was the only way Purch could bring on enough demand partners to get the true value of its inventory. Purch has already integrated 30 demand partners into its server-side product without slowing its load times. By the end of the year, it will likely add another 10 partners, Potter says. — Ross Benes


Purch, which first implemented header bidding three years ago, has moved on.The portfolio of product review and tech sites turned off most of its header bidders last month and moved to server-to-server integrations with the same partners.

Industrywide, server-to-server is considered a logical next step after header bidding. Amazon is moving server-to-server, and Google’s exchange bidding product is building server-to-server connections with partners.

“What’s great about header bidding is that it adds more demand sources and competition,” said Purch CTO John Potter. “What’s not good about it is that the entire process takes place on the user’s browser. Moving server-to-server, we get rid of all that back-and-forth on the client side and remove a lot of clutter and latency from the user’s page.”

To create its server-to-server connections, Purch used its own team of engineers to work with its ad tech partners on developing server-to-server connections.

Once Purch switched to server-to-server connections, it saw latency decrease by at least half a second. Revenue held steady, maintaining the gains Purch saw when it switched to header bidding.

While Purch rolled out server-to-server, Potter kept its header bidding partners live, but he soon turned those off.

“As we added more demand sources [server-to-server], we found the header bidders weren’t winning enough inventory to make it worthwhile,” Potter said.

With its custom solution, Purch is including not just banner ad demand sources server-side, but partners bidding on video ads or native placements. It works with 21 partners via server-to-server integrations.

Those partners see Purch’s inventory more reliably, because fewer of their bids time out, Potter said. Ads serve faster, improving viewability and wasted bids.

By building its own solution, Purch can see every scrap of bidding data, including both winning and losing bids, and the spread between them. Potter considers data key to publishers controlling their inventory and understanding its true value.

While Purch’s move to the server side made sense for the company, Potter doesn’t expect many other publishers will take the same path. For one, publishers must have enough scale to entice their ad tech partners to build their end of the connection. And most publishers don’t employ ad tech engineering teams to build these connections.

“Publishers will have to wait for someone to productize it for the most part,” Potter predicted. “I think this is going to be slower than header bidding because it’s harder to implement.”

That said, Potter says Google’s exchange bidding product could see swift adoption and publishers will realize the gains of speed that come with server-to-server connections.

“When exchange bidding is rolled out as a full-fledged product to people,” he said, “it will go quickly.”

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