Header bidding has become an increasingly popular ad tech tactic among digital publishers in recent years. By allowing multiple demand sources (e.g., ad exchanges, header bidder solutions) to bid on available impression inventory at the same time, header bidding seeks to maximize publisher yield by driving up competition among demand sources for each impression. Header bidding also helps publishers retain control of their header placement creative. A good header placement enables a publisher to maintain higher revenue than alternatives like changing their app or website’s user interface (UI).
Header bidding started in 2014 when independent prebid.org launched its open source header bidder solution on WordPress sites. A year later, AppNexus became the first header bidder platform to support header wrapper integrations on mobile web inventory. While header bidding on mobile web inventory was slow to catch on (since it required disabling iOS Safari’s third-party cookie blocking), publishers soon began adopting it for desktop web inventory. By 2016, header bidding demand grew so rapidly that some ad ops professionals viewed header tags more of a nuisance than anything else . Today, header bidding is used by over 50% of all U.S. top 100 publishers , up from only 25% in 2016. Header bidding ad formats include header, image, and video ads on inventory across desktop and mobile web.
Ad tech industry experts expect header bidding to continue its momentum into 2018 as header bidder platforms like prebid.org, PubFood , Sonobi , Fluidity , and Insticator adopt header wrapper technology that will support mobile apps through SDK integrations with iOS and Android mobile ad networks .
Ad formats header bidding supports:
What are the benefits of header bidding?
In addition to driving up competition among demand sources, header bidding offers other benefits as well: header tags reduce latency , allows for UI flexibility , and enables multiple yield scenarios . But those benefits aren’t without their downsides either. Header tag latency can cause loading issues, header bidding complicates header management , and header bidding generally increases ad server load.
What are the downsides of header bidding?
For all the benefits header bidding offers publishers (e.g., more revenue per ad unit), header tags introduce latency and additional work for an ad ops team to manage alongside standard impression-level creative approvals and viewability checks. Header tag best practices dictate that multiple demand sources should be tested in header containers for each ad slot to provide the publisher an opportunity to increase yield. header bidding also complicates header management, header tag latency can cause loading issues, header bidding generally increases ad server load, and header bidding has security implications when implemented at scale . As header bidding continues its market dominance into 2018, publishers are looking for solutions that reduce the impact of header tags on both performance metrics and operational workflows.