What Is Header Bidding & Why Do Publishers Use It?

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Header bidding[1] has become an increasingly popular ad tech[7] tactic among digital publishers in recent years. By allowing multiple demand sources (e.g., ad exchanges, header bidder[8] solutions) to bid on available impression[2] inventory[9] at the same time, header bidding seeks to maximize publisher[10] yield[11] by driving up competition among demand sources for each impression. Header bidding also helps publishers retain control of their header placement creative[12]. 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[3] 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[13] blocking), publishers soon began adopting it for desktop web inventory. By 2016, header bidding demand grew so rapidly that some ad ops[4] 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[14] 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 .

Publishers implement header bidding through either server-to-server integrations or header bidder wrappers. Server-side header bidding is a complex integration that requires a developer to modify a website’s code.  Header bidder wrappers, which are JavaScript code modules that dynamically load header bidders into a publisher’s header container, provide an easier and flexible method for publishers to implement header bidding.

Ad formats header bidding supports:

  • Display
  • Native
  • Video
  • In-App

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[15]), header tags introduce latency and additional work for an ad ops team to manage alongside standard impression-level creative approvals and viewability[5] 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[6] metrics and operational workflows.

Terms
1. Header bidding. Header bidding is an ad technology that allows publishers to earn to most ad revenue possible for their ad inventory by ensuring the highest bidding ad is served.
2. impression. Impression is when a user views an ad on a page or when an ad is displayed on a webpage.
3. header wrapper. A header wrapper is what a publisher uses to integrate multiple ad networks on their website to run the header bidding auction. Instead of each demand partner needing a separate code implemented, header wrappers allows seamless integration of multiple partners with one script.
4. Ad Operations ( ad ops ) Ad Operations refers to processes and systems that support the sale and delivery of online advertising. More specifically this is the workflow processes and software systems that are used to sell, input, serve, target and report on the performance of online ads.
5. viewability. Viewability relates to the amount of time a user saw an ad.

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