Header Bidding

Top 10 Header Bidding Demand Partners (2018 Update)

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We have previously listed some header bidding demand partners to add in your wrapper. But there’s more to bidders than just their demand.

The following list contains only the top tier demand partners currently in the header bidding game; the kind that require you to have a hefty number of minimum monthly impressions just to get a quote; the kind that bring in considerable amounts of unique demand (we covered why that’s important in this post); the kind that are exclusive and why so.

Anywho, here are the top 10 Tier 1 header bidding demand partners in the ad tech sphere today:

Edit: Updated with Header Bidder Performance Analysis* data (by Roxot) which evaluates the following:

  • Bid rate: how often a bidder replies with a bid to an ad request
  • Win rate: how often bidder’s bids win prebid auctions
  • Timeout rate: percentage of ad auctions for which the bidder didn’t provide a bid in the time specified in prebid.js timeout settings

* Analysis of 3 billion requests generated by North American users on 358 websites using prebid.js from January 1st to April 30th, 2018.

1. Criteo: Straight to Business

  • Minimum monthly impressions: 50M
  • Bid rate55.9 (desktop); 32.4 (mobile)
  • Win rate: 19.9 (desktop); 15.2 (mobile)
  • Timeout rate: 20.9 (desktop); 16.4 (mobile)

Criteo doesn’t have a custom wrapper, but it’s the most popular header bidder among Alexa 1000 sites (according to this study by GetIntent). That’s because of Direct Bidder, which is how Criteo stays ahead of Amazon.

Direct Bidder works without second price auctions – meaning that the final bid you receive from Criteo really is the highest bid on its entire marketplace (and not the second highest bid + 1 cent returned by most exchanges). The solution is free to use for publishers.

Direct Bidder works with standard display ads and native units. Since Criteo is also an Acceptable Ad compliant vendor, it will selectively put adblocked impressions up for direct bidding as well.

“We are not building our own wrapper. We are trying to drive as much demand as possible, and we don’t want to do anything that will limit our access to supply.”

– Marc Grabowski, EVP of global supply and business development, Criteo (source)

Publishers can begin using Direct Bidder by adding the code directly to the page, the ad server, or within Index custom wrapper.

2. Google (EBDA): The ‘Alternative’

  • Minimum monthly impressions: 90M
  • Custom header bidding solution: DFP’s Exchange Bidding

Earlier this year, Google released an open beta of Exchange Bidding in Dynamic Allocation, aka EBDA, to all DFP publishers (except users of DFP Small Business).

Essentially, Google opened DFP’s dynamic allocation to other exchanges and created a unified auction within the ad server, in which AdX will now participate without any ‘unfair’ privileges.

For publishers, EBDA is a good workaround to traditional, client-side header bidding – ad calls are handled through servers which means less latency and better UX.

The problem lies with getting other exchanges to bid in this server-side auction. Despite the fact that Google easily owns what amounts to the largest pool of impressions on the internet, ad tech companies (esp. ones like AppNexus) are unwilling to enter the server-side ‘black-box’ right in the heart of Google’s ad server.

As of now, Index, Rubicon, Cox, OpenX, and Sovrn are some publicly listed exchanges who have signed up to EBDA. Google is working on signing up more ‘yield partners’.

“Exchanges are building their businesses with improved inventory access, and new players are ramping up their buying or opening negotiations with us weekly.”

– Jonathan Bellack, Director of product management, Google (source)

EBDA works with DFP Publisher Tags and mobile app impressions.

3. Facebook Audience Network: Mobile Demand for Everyone

  • Supports Prebid.js and Prebid Server
  • Minimum monthly impressions: N/A
  • Bid rate: 20.1 (desktop); 63.3 (mobile)
  • Win rate80.5 (desktop); 86.4 (mobile)
  • Timeout rate: 5.9 (desktop); 4.1 (mobile)

Facebook doesn’t have a standalone header bidding product, but its Audience Network made waves earlier this year by throwing its weight behind header bidding.

Facebook Audience Network (FAN) has a Prebid adapter for client-side and server-side bidding. It also integrates with custom wrappers by following approved partners—Amazon, Appnexus, Index Exchange, Media.net, Sonobi, and Sortable.

As a bidder partner, FAN brings in demand for mobile web and in-app impressions.

“App demand is an area where Facebook has been quite strong due to their user graph. With the inefficiencies of today’s dated app mediation offerings, this makes the real-time demand of having Facebook compete with exchanges even more attractive to publishers.”

– Drew Bradstock, SVP of product, Index Exchange (source)

Roxot’s bidder performance analysis data pegs FAN to be the most efficient header bidding demand partner for prebid.js users. As the report says, “it bids rarely but gets the job done when it matches a user” as evidenced by the >80% win rate and low timeout rates (==less latency). A must for mobile sites.

4. Amazon: The Elite Club

  • Minimum monthly impressions: N/A
  • Custom header bidding solution: Transparent Ad Marketplace (TAM)

Amazon’s cloud-based header bidding solution offers what Google EBDA doesn’t – fixed rate fee and data transparency.

Publishers and competing exchanges get to see the bid details, which is rare enough on its own in server cloud integrations. The exchanges can also pay publishers directly (without processing said payment through Amazon). Then there’s the matter of fixed rate fee in place of revenue share – a first for any ad exchange.

One source who viewed the (publisher) contract said the server-side tool will charge about a penny or half-penny CPM, less than many publishers’ ad-serving fees. (via AdExchanger)

Amazon is well-connected on the demand front, with integrations with major exchanges, all six of the top global ad agencies, and the option to add your own demand sources (not just ad exchanges) as you go along. The inventory Amazon is bidding on is extensive too.

“We continue to see growth in new channels. Video has been growing, and there’s more focus on native formats. We see those as areas of opportunity to increase our supply footprint.”

– Saurabh Sharma, Director of Ad Platform, Amazon (source)

Amazon TAM demand is only available via its own cloud-based header and currently integrates with no other open-sourced or custom header bidding containers.

5. AppNexus: The Maverick

  • Supports Prebid.js and Prebid Server
  • Minimum monthly impressions: 30M
  • Bid rate: 60.8 (desktop); 47.8 (mobile)
  • Win rate: 37.8 (desktop); 51.9 (mobile)
  • Timeout rate: 14.7 (desktop); 8.9 (mobile)

We cannot talk about header bidding without mentioning AppNexus. The Prebid pioneer is everything you need to rebel against a “shady and overbearing” Google.

Early in May 2017, AppNexus released Prebid Server – a free server-side header bidding solution that complements the client-side Prebid wrapper. Currently, the unified auction retrieves bids from AppNexus marketplace, Facebook Audience Network, Index Exchange, and other undisclosed premium partners.

AppNexus is willing to incur the cost of hosting and maintaining sever-to-server integrations to “make sure that everyone can take advantage of server-to-server without relying on any black box technology”.

Prebid Server is also open sourced and transparent, as in all bids are received by Prebid.js (client-side version) and visible to publishers. The real challenge is getting approved for Prebid server connection by AppNexus.

AppNexus does fairly well as a demand partner too, but bids only within prebid or few custom wrappers (like AOL and Index). Roxot’s analysis puts AppNexus squarely among the top 4 header bidding demand partners in terms of efficiency and timeout rates. Gets a lot of incredibly unique demand from WPP.

6. Index Exchange: The Neutral Party

  • Supports Prebid.js and Prebid Server
  • Yield Partner on Google EBDA
  • Minimum monthly impressions: N/A
  • Custom header bidding solution: Known simply as “Header Tag Wrapper”
  • Bid rate: 68 (desktop); 38 (mobile)
  • Win rate: 41.8 (desktop); 51.4 (mobile)
  • Timeout rate: 11.9 (desktop); 6.1 (mobile)

Index Exchange takes no part in the tug of war (Google vs. everybody else) in ad tech ecosystem. It just wants supply for its top notch demand, and it’s not pulling any stops to get it.

Index Exchange has server-side integration with AppNexus. It also bids through DoubleClick EBDA. In December 2016, Index went ahead with video header bidding (a custom video player with built-in header wrapper logic). It also has its own custom client-side wrapper, which integrates Criteo and Facebook along with other ‘picky’ ad exchanges.

As a header bidding demand partner, Index bids especially well for video impressions in EMEA regions.

Roxot’s performance report puts Index among top 4 most efficient bidders (win rate * bid rate) and latenc (timeout rates).

7. AOL Marketplace

  • Supports Prebid.js and Prebid Server
  • Supports Pubfood.js
  • Minimum monthly impressions: N/A
  • Custom header bidding solution: Smart Yield
  • Bid rate: 30.6 (desktop); 12.1 (mobile)
  • Win rate: 37.4 (desktop); 34.2 (mobile)
  • Timeout rate: 9.9 (desktop); 7.8 (mobile)

AOL has something for everyone.

As a demand partner, AOL is versatile – It has unique advertising demand for global display and video inventory. It integrates with open source wrappers Prebid and Pubfood, as well as some custom wrappers.

As a header bidding tech provider, AOL created Smart Yield – a client-server hybrid wrapper which, as of June 2017, is beta-testing mobile in-app header bidding.

The Smart Yield wrapper (for display and video impressions) is integrated with Index, AppNexus, Rubicon, OpenX, Pubmatic, and Yieldbot for mobile web and desktop platforms.

AOL’s bid and win rates in prebid.js aren’t all too splendid, but that’s the nature of AOL’s unique demand. Low latency makes this a good competitor to have in the wrapper anyway.

8. Rubicon Project

  • Supports Prebid.js
  • Yield Partner on Google EBDA
  • Minimum monthly impressions: 10M
  • Custom header bidding solution: FastLane
  • Bid rate68.4 (desktop); 21.6 (mobile)
  • Win rate: 38.3 (desktop); 30.4 (mobile)
  • Timeout rate: 5.8 (desktop); 8.2 (mobile)

Rubicon Project took a lot of flack for ignoring header bidding while it was still gaining steam. Consequently, stock prices plummeted, revenue was lost, and employees were laid off.

Now the exchange has extensive plans for header bidding.

Rubicon has a prebid adapter, but publishers need Rubicon’s explicit permission before adding the exchange to a prebid wrapper. Their custom wrapper, FastLane works for display (desktop and mobile), native, and outstream video impressions, mobile in-app inventory (via a 40kb SDK), and Google AMP sites (via a special adapter).

Rubicon is also making overtures on the buy-side of header bidding. The company recently acquired nToggle in an attempt to reduce the strain on DSPs caused by processing redundant bid requests (a header bidding side-effect).

Within prebid.js, Rubicon is an active bidder, managing to lose fewer bids than  Facebook Audience Network to latency. Add it to raise bid density without the cost of latency.

9. OpenX

  • Supports Prebid.js
  • Minimum monthly impressions: 100M
  • Custom header bidding solution: OpenX Bidder
  • Bid rate: 36.3 (desktop); 28.5 (mobile)
  • Win rate: 25.6 (desktop); 23.7 (mobile)
  • Timeout rate: 7.3 (desktop); 9.4 (mobile)

OpenX was among the first vendors to provide header bidding to its publishers. They even put a toe in server-to-server header bidding with OpenX Meta – which fizzled out due to widespread skepticism from the rest of the industry.

Currently, OpenX has an adapter for Prebid and its own custom wrapper (OpenX Bidder) for all impression types.

Other than Google, OpenX is the only exchange on this list with an independently validated certification against fraud and malware from Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG).

OpenX is a decent enough bidder, as per the performance data. The low timeout rate (bids lost because of timeout) makes it a good bidder to have around, despite the low bid and win rates.

10. Centro Brand Exchange

  • Supports Prebid.js
  • Minimum monthly impressions: N/A

Centro, like Facebook, has no custom wrapper solutions of its own. It has a Prebid adapter and is integrated as demand partner with a few custom wrappers, a number they plan to increase.

[We have plans] to integrate with the header bidding solutions that our publisher partners value and choose to use. We are currently focusing on partnering with both Amazon and Index’s server solutions.

– Chris Bailey, Director of brand exchange operations, Centro

Centro has demand for all types of impressions. The exchange, however, is extremely cautious with publisher relations and takes brand safety seriously, choosing to purchase inventory directly (and almost exclusively) from national and local journalistic publications.