Publisher resources

What is Google's DFP First Look

Ben Morrisroe, Marketing Coordinator

25 March 2019

Well, I'm glad you asked, and you will be too by the time you have finished reading about this feature available in Ad Manager. So why don't you take a first look (bad pun intended) at how it works and how it can help you get more bang for your buck.

DoubleClick First Look (DFL) is a feature in Google’s AdX that allows you to let selected programmatic advertisers compete against reserved guaranteed line items. In return for the opportunity to bid on these impressions over your premium campaigns, buyers will need to pay a higher price. The aim of DFL is to let programmatic advertisers take valuable impressions when they are willing to pay more than your direct campaigns.

The direct campaigns still deliver their target impression volumes - just later in the day. An effective First look strategy allows for the best performing ad units to increase their programmatic revenue, without reducing direct campaign revenue. This is a careful balance that we at Publift have become experts in.

First look allows programmatic advertisers to bid on reserved premium inventory


You are a publisher and you have a number of standard and sponsorship campaigns currently running in your DFP account. These have been negotiated and the buyers have purchased a number of impressions over a defined time period along with user frequency capping and other settings to help them reach their audience as effectively as possible. The highest CPM for these campaigns is set at $5.

You believe that you can allow more competition for these highly sought-after impressions with a floor price of $10 whilst still delivering on your other campaigns. This will mean that only buyers through AdX that bid more than this will be able to buy the impression over your other campaigns.

If you have sponsorship or exclusive takeover campaigns where an advertiser wants exclusive access to a specific ad unit or your homepage, First Look can easily be excluded from competing on these pages, sponsorships etc. at the tick of a box.


Lucky for you, First Look is very simple to set up. It requires no additional code changes and works with a publisher’s existing line items. As there are no additional ad requests, First Look adds zero latency to your website. You also have complete control to manage demand and the fill rate for First Look, just as you would in private or open marketplaces.



The risk to you as the publisher comes only in the setup. You are selling inventory that is usually reserved for sponsorship or guaranteed deals which are often set up to fulfil a specified number of impressions over a defined time period. You have to make sure you set your floor prices correctly so that First Look does not cannibalise all of the impressions from these deals, leaving you underdelivering your direct campaigns. DFP First Look should be taking a small percentage of your premium inventory at very high CPMs, allowing you to make more revenue whilst still delivering on your agreed upon deals.



This is a fine balance but Google recommends that you make 90+% of your premium inventory available and have a First Look fill rate at 1-3%. This is, of course, just a guideline and it will take some experimentation to find a sweet spot where you are increasing revenue without cannibalising on your existing deals. In order for First Look to fill at this low rate, your CPM rates can often be up to 4 times your regular AdX CPM rates.


Even if you are using header bidding, DFP First Look helps to increase demand for your inventory. A buyer who is not purchasing through one of your header bidding partners, but highly values the impression, now has the ability to compete against standard and sponsorship line items, paying you even more for this impression. Buyers may even end up bidding against themselves for the same impression through these different channels. More competition for your impressions is always going to help increase your yield.

To get the most out of DFL, there are five steps you’ll need to follow:

understand your ad inventory DFP

Understand your inventory - All publishers understand that some ad units perform better than others on their sites. Good publishers understand this so well, that they package up inventory for sale or request a serious floor price to serve an advertisement in these positions. The best publishers can tell you how volatile the CPM may be, and around what average this price falls for any given unit on their site. Understanding the malleability of price at this level allows you to strategically price DFL for optimum returns.

segment your ad inventory First look

Segment your inventory - Now that you’ve taken a deep dive into your performance, you can begin to group ad units together around similar price points, devices, sizes, geography, inventory and availability, or, whatever makes your ad units unique. This will be the basis of your DFL rules and price optimisation.

Prepare your DFL structure - With all these groupings in mind, start building out your rules in Ad Manager. These clusters will allow you to either move ad units up or down tiers or, move the whole tier into a different price bracket. Currently, there is no way to work machine learning into this product, so it is vital to keep naming conventions clear and use the minimal amount of clusters to optimise. You don’t want to spend hours a week adjusting floor prices. Once completed, you’ll start accruing revenue through DFL!

report and optimise your ad inventory DFP first look

Report and Optimise - Once you’ve kicked off your DFL journey, you will want to know how you are tracking. There are two main metrics to keep your eye on in the query tool. Ad request eCPM tells you the revenue trend per 1000 ad requests to DFL. Coverage tells you the proportion of ad requests that DFL was able to match with an ad. Fluctuation in rule price affects these figures, so make sure you set yourself benchmarks for both and keep an eye on your reservation line items!

check on your premium ad inventory First look

Make it a habit - Now that you’re live and optimised, it is important to regularly check in and optimise. Seasonal factors will often have an effect on performance, plus any changes to your site. Depending on time budgeted, keeping on top of DFL will ensure yield remains high.


DFP First look is a tool provided by Google to help you expose more of your inventory to high-value demand, allowing them to compete against your standard and sponsorship line items in exchange for higher CPMs. Google has estimated that by selling a small percentage of your reserved inventory at these very high CPMs, you can increase your revenue by 10%.

It can also be used in conjunction with header bidding to further increase the number of demand sources competing for your inventory. With a bit of programmatic know-how, it is relatively easy to do, however, finding that sweet spot can take time. We work with a number of publishers and have done the experimentation already so why not get someone else to look after you? Get in touch with Publift if you want to see how First Look might help drive your programmatic revenue.



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