Header Bidding

State of Header Bidding in 2017

We’ve covered the whats and hows of header bidding pretty thoroughly on this blog.

ICYMI: Here’s a comprehensive version of a guide to header bidding technology.

At this point in 2017, most media sellers are aware what header bidding is and how it works. Most major demand sources support header bidding — either by bidding through other wrappers and/or offering their own wrapper solutions for publishers.

Now that the ‘wrapper’ is going mainstream, we take a look at formats other than display and the state of header bidding.

Facebook Audience Network Expands Demand

According to Zenith’s Advertising Forecast, mobile ad spend will overtake desktop in 2017.

Advertisers across the world will spend US $99.3bn on mobile internet advertising in 2017, compared to US $97.4bn on desktop internet advertising.

According to Pubmatic’s 2016 Q4 Mobile Index report, mobile monetized header bidding impressions grew 50X year-over-year by Q4 of 2016—an increase of 4,800% in global mobile impressions monetized via header bidding technology. By the end of 2016, header-bidding-enabled mobile impressions accounted for three-quarters (75%) of the exchange’s entire impression pool, a number expected to grow throughout 2017.

How’s the demand faring? Pretty well, all things considered. Facebook Audience Network made waves earlier this year by throwing its weight behind header bidding. The network will provide its unique demand through open-sourced and Audience Network approved wrapper providers—Amazon Publisher Services, Appnexus, Index Exchange, Media.net, Sonobi, and Sortable.

We are now able to access the large pool of advertisers already running ads across Facebook. By using Audience Network via header bidding we achieve yields on qualified impressions that are 2X-3X higher than we receive from traditional exchange based demand.

— Matt Wheatland, US Director of Programmatic, Daily Mail


As of now, Audience Network’s advertisers can only bid on mobile web impressions. Given the amount of unique advertising demand it brings to the table, it would be interesting to see if (and how) Facebook Audience Network brings its other, trickier ad formats to the header bidding fold.

The State of Server-Side Auctions

Server-side header bidding is a great ad tech conversation starter. Once the auction is moved to the server, a publisher can add several hundred demand sources (which is awesome, compared to client-side limitation of 8-10 demand sources) without worrying about sky-high latency.

Media giants like Trinity Mirror and The Guardian have been conducting server-side auctions on part of their inventory for years. Wrapper providers and demand sources (Amazon, AppNexus, bRealTime, Yieldbot, Index Exchange) have already helped more than a few premium publishers take header auction to the server.

2017 is the year where this number is expected to grow.

But there are roadblocks. Amongst exchanges, collaboration is an issue: Exchanges are not keen on participating in auctions within a rival’s server-side wrapper.

This is because client-side wrappers keep auction dynamics transparent to all exchange participants. Server-side auctions, on the other hand, will depend on the SSP partner (wrapper provider) to maintain auction transparency and share data equally with all bid participants.

Since many S2S wrapper providers also participate in the auction, it seems unlikely that that the server integration won’t benefit its own exchange (possibly at others’ cost). After Google’s dynamic allocation in DFP and covert ‘privileges’ it gave to its own exchange (AdX), the cynicism is not invalid.

This mistrust led to OpenX Meta’s quiet dismissal a year ago: OpenX’s server-side solution wasn’t supported then by competing demand sources. Now, however, it looks like the tides are turning.

Index Exchange and AppNexus are now supporting each other’s S2S connections by providing demand to each other’s server-side wrappers. The duo is also promising to share log level data with all bid partners to keep everyone on the same footing. Other exchanges are yet to come on board.

In-app Header Bidding: Poised to Grow

eMarketer senior analyst Catherine Boyle spoke at length of a growing interest in buying mobile impressions programmatically, and especially in-app inventory.

In-app advertising will be a key driver of growth in programmatic mobile ad spend. And it’s more than the industry will spend on radio, newspaper and magazine advertising combined in 2016.


A large chunk of this investment ends up with Facebook and will continue to do so (according to eMarketer predictions). But app publishers need not despair. Pubmatic 2016 Q4 analysis shows some interesting trends that will continue in 2017: mobile in-app impression volume increased by 21% and earned 60% higher eCPMs (compared to mobile web).

Despite this growing interest, mobile app monetization through header bidding seems to be at a standstill. Over the last two years, vendors have offered in-app header bidding solutions: AppNexus’ ‘lightweight Prebid mobile SDK’ (called PriceCheck), Rubicon Fastlane (for mobile apps), and Pubmatic’s recent open-sourced SDK.

The problem: App publishers remain wary of adding multiple SDKs (required to integrate with multiple exchanges) that could slow down performance.

As of now, app publishers partner with a mobile SSP and then onboard its partner demand sources. An easy alternative in form of DFP Mediation (now improved with exchange bidding) is also available.

Video Header Bidding Gains Traction

“Video header bidding” is a misnomer, since there is no ‘header’ within the video player. But replace ‘header’ with ‘video player’ and the underlying principle remains the same (with some changes that need an entire post to explain).

AppNexus announced a beta release for the addition of video to Prebid project in December 2016. The script lets publishers add demand sources to bid on video impressions using these players: video.js, JW Player, Brightcove, Kaltura, and Ooyala. Here’s a developer’s document that explains how to set up prebid video in DFP.

Around the same time (December 2016), Index Exchange debuted its own video header bidding solution, with Daily Mail (MailOnline) and LittleThings.

Today, Index has live video header bidding installations on 11 media companies across the U.S., Canada and EMEA regions. These media companies are running a significant amount of transactional video through our exchange on video in the header, and early results are promising.

 via Knowledge Exchange Blog

Purch, reportedly, created almost two dozen OpenRTB-compliant custom bidders for its combined video inventory across various digital properties. That’s time consuming work, and therein lies the problem: Video bidding implementation (and optimization) requires significant technical proficiency. This complexity could also dissuade the supply-side.

Other flaws in video header bidding are similar to display, namely latency, data leakage, and transparency (in server-side auctions). But video inventory fetches the highest prices of any format. If you have video impressions to sell, consider testing Prebid Video with demand sources like Index Exchange, AppNexus, AOL Marketplace, Sekindo, Yieldbot, Hiromedia, Pulsepoint, et al.

With Love, From Google: Exchange Bidding in Dynamic Allocation

This is Google entering into server-side header bidding fray. Essentially, Google promises to remove first and last look privilege to AdX in dynamic allocation feature. This allows publishers to pick and add yield partners (from Cox, Index Exchange, Sovrn, Rubicon and ‘others’) to compete on equal footing with AdX.

Exchange bidding is currently available for in-app mobile and desktop display impressions.

Note: Before a publisher can connect with an Exchange Bidding yield partner, they must have an established contractual relationship with that partner.