Header Bidding Explained

Programmatic advertising has revolutionized the way ads are bought and sold online. And within this vast landscape, header bidding has emerged as a game-changing technique for publishers to maximize their ad revenue. But what exactly is header bidding, and how does it work? Let’s dive into the world of header bidding and uncover its mysteries.

Imagine a world where publishers can offer their ad inventory to multiple demand partners simultaneously, allowing them to obtain the highest value for their advertising space. That’s exactly what header bidding offers. Instead of the traditional waterfall method, which prioritizes ad exchanges one by one, header bidding allows publishers to participate in a real-time auction where bid requests are sent to multiple demand partners all at once.

What Is Header Bidding?

Header bidding is a programmatic auction where bid requests are sent to multiple demand partners in real time, allowing publishers to obtain the highest value for their ad inventory.

With header bidding, publishers can offer their inventory to multiple ad exchanges and ad networks simultaneously, increasing competition and driving higher CPMs.

It is also known as advance bidding or pre-bidding. The implementation of header bidding has become widespread, with 84% of the top US sites using this technique.

Why is Header Bidding Important?

Header bidding revolutionizes the way publishers sell their ad space. It allows them to create a fair and transparent marketplace for advertisers to bid for their inventory.

  • Increased Competition: By offering inventory to multiple demand partners simultaneously, publishers can attract more advertisers and increase competition, resulting in higher CPMs (Cost Per Thousand impressions).
  • Higher Revenue: With header bidding, publishers have a better chance of obtaining the highest bids for their impressions, leading to increased ad revenue.
  • Improved User Experience: Header bidding allows publishers to prioritize relevant ads, ensuring that users see advertisements that are more aligned with their interests.

Overall, header bidding empowers publishers to optimize their ad revenue and enjoy greater control over their advertising strategies.

How Does Header Bidding Work?

Header bidding is a complex yet efficient process that occurs in the blink of an eye as soon as a webpage loads in your browser. It leverages advanced technology to maximize revenue for publishers while offering advertisers fair and transparent opportunities to bid on valuable ad inventory.

When you visit a website, the header bidding code, typically implemented using a JavaScript code snippet, is executed in the page header. This code calls all demand partners, including ad exchanges and ad networks, simultaneously to participate in a real-time auction for the impression. Unlike the traditional waterfall method, where ad requests are sent sequentially, header bidding’s simultaneous approach ensures that all demand sources have an equal chance to bid, increasing competition and potentially driving up ad prices.

The header bidding process takes place within a specific time frame, usually within a second. During this brief window, demand partners hold their auctions and submit their bids. The highest bids are then passed from your browser to the publisher’s ad server, usually through a server-to-server connection or a header bidding wrapper. The ad server ultimately decides which bid to accept and displays the winning ad to you.

By allowing all demand sources to participate in the auction, header bidding gives publishers more control over pricing and maximizes their revenue potential. This innovative technology has revolutionized the programmatic advertising landscape, empowering publishers and benefiting advertisers.

Advantages of Header Bidding

Header bidding offers several advantages for both publishers and advertisers:

  • Increased Revenue: By facilitating competition among multiple demand partners, header bidding enables publishers to charge higher prices for their ad inventory, potentially increasing their revenue by 30-50%.
  • Control Over Pricing: Publishers have the ability to prioritize certain advertisers or demand sources and set floor prices for different ad segments, giving them greater control over their pricing strategies.
  • Improved Ad Quality: Header bidding attracts higher bids from advertisers who have a stronger affinity for a publisher’s audience, resulting in better quality ads and a more relevant advertising experience for users.
  • Reduced Reporting Discrepancies: By providing transparency and allowing advertisers to see all of a publisher’s impressions, header bidding reduces reporting discrepancies and increases trust in the advertising ecosystem.

With its numerous benefits and the widespread adoption by publishers, it’s clear why header bidding has become a cornerstone of programmatic advertising strategies.

Visualization is key in understanding the complex process of header bidding. The image above illustrates the bid request flow and the involvement of various demand sources in the header bidding ecosystem.

Why Header Bidding Is Better for Publishers

Header bidding offers numerous advantages for publishers, making it a powerful tool to maximize revenue and ad performance. Let’s explore the key benefits of implementing header bidding on your website:

1. Greater Yield and Increased Revenue

By leveraging header bidding, publishers can charge higher prices for their premium inventory, leading to a significant increase in revenue. Studies have shown that publishers can experience a revenue boost of 30-50% by adopting header bidding.

2. Increased Control and Selective Demand Sources

With header bidding, publishers have the ability to choose which demand sources can participate in the auction for their ad inventory. This control allows publishers to prioritize certain advertisers or exclude specific partners that may not be aligned with their goals.

3. Improved Ad Quality and Higher Bids

Header bidding attracts higher bids from advertisers who have a deeper understanding of a publisher’s audience. This ultimately leads to improved ad quality and relevancy for the end user. By allowing all demand sources to compete simultaneously, header bidding ensures that publishers receive the best possible bids for every impression.

4. Reduced Reporting Discrepancies and Enhanced Yield

Another advantage of header bidding is the reduction in reporting discrepancies. With the traditional waterfall method, reporting discrepancies between demand partners were common, resulting in a loss of revenue. By implementing header bidding, publishers can significantly reduce these discrepancies and improve overall yield and fill rate.

To summarize, header bidding offers publishers greater yield, increased control, improved ad quality, and reduced reporting discrepancies. By leveraging this advanced programmatic advertising technique, publishers can take their ad revenue to new heights.

How Does Header Bidding Help Advertisers?

While header bidding primarily benefits publishers, advertisers also reap significant advantages from this advanced programmatic advertising technique. Let’s explore how header bidding benefits advertisers:

Better Access to Premium Inventory

Header bidding provides advertisers with the opportunity to access premium inventory that was previously only available through direct deals with publishers. This means that advertisers have equal access to the best inventory, regardless of whether they use Google Ad Exchange or not.

Improved Transparency

With header bidding, advertisers gain increased transparency into a publisher’s impressions. They get a real look at all of the impressions available, not just the unsold ones. This increased transparency allows advertisers to make more informed decisions about their ad strategies and optimize their campaigns accordingly.

Efficient Decision-making

By having a comprehensive view of a publisher’s available impressions, advertisers can make more efficient and effective decisions about where to place their ads. They can evaluate the performance and suitability of different impressions before making a bidding decision.

Increased Competition

Header bidding encourages increased competition among advertisers by allowing multiple demand partners to bid simultaneously. This competitive environment can drive up engagement and ensure fair pricing for premium inventory.

These benefits make header bidding a valuable strategy for advertisers looking to maximize their ad performance and reach their target audience effectively.

How to Setup Header Bidding

Setting up header bidding requires a continuous connection between the ad manager, header bidding wrapper, and SSP adapters. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to set up header bidding:

  1. Search for Relevant Demand Partners: Begin by researching and identifying demand partners that align with your website’s niche and target audience. Look for partners who can provide high-quality ads and have a good reputation in the industry.
  2. Install and Assemble a Header Bidding Wrapper: Once you have selected your demand partners, you need to install a header bidding wrapper. A header bidding wrapper is a JavaScript code snippet that organizes all the buyers and sets the rules for the programmatic auction. One popular header bidding wrapper is prebid.js.
  3. Configure the Format: After installing the header bidding wrapper, you will need to configure the format of your header bidding setup. This involves setting auction time limits and floor prices for different ad segments. By setting floor prices, you can ensure that your inventory is sold at a minimum price that you find acceptable.

Here is an example of how the code for the header bidding wrapper with prebid.js looks like:

<script src="https://prebid.org/latest/prebid.js"></script>
  var pbjs = pbjs || {};
  pbjs.que = pbjs.que || [];
  pbjs.que.push(function() {
        code: 'ad-unit-1',
        sizes: [[300, 250], [728, 90]],
        bids: [
            bidder: 'bidder-1',
            params: {
              placementId: '123456'
            bidder: 'bidder-2',
            params: {
              placementId: '789012'
      bidsBackHandler: initAdserver
  function initAdserver() {
    if (pbjs.initAdserverSet) return;
      pbjs.initAdserverSet = true;

Once you have completed these steps, you will have successfully set up header bidding on your website. This will allow you to maximize your ad revenue by offering your ad inventory to multiple demand partners simultaneously and increase competition among advertisers.

What Are Header Bidding Wrappers?

A header bidding wrapper is a powerful software tool that publishers utilize to streamline and optimize the programmatic auction process in header bidding. By leveraging this technology, publishers can efficiently manage multiple demand sources without the complexities of adding individual code for each new bidding partner. The header bidding wrapper acts as a central hub, organizing all buyers and setting the rules for the auction, maximizing competition and increasing revenue.

The wrapper contains code from various demand partners and determines the protocols for the auction. Through its user-friendly interface, publishers can easily configure and fine-tune the wrapper to suit their specific needs, such as setting timeout limits, defining floor prices, and prioritizing certain demand sources. This ensures that the auction runs smoothly and efficiently, delivering optimal results for publishers.

Key Features of Header Bidding Wrappers:

  • Central management of multiple demand sources.
  • Rule setting and configuration for the programmatic auction.
  • Analytic tools to evaluate performance and optimize strategies.
  • Effortless removal of underperforming demand sources.

By using a header bidding wrapper, publishers can enhance their control over the auction process, maximize competitive demand for their inventory, and ultimately improve their ad revenue.

Header Bidding Wrapper Benefits Header Bidding Wrapper Challenges
  • Maximizes competition and revenue.
  • Simplifies management of multiple demand partners.
  • Offers flexible rule configuration.
  • Provides valuable analytical insights.
  • Requires technical expertise for set up and configuration.
  • Potential increase in latency.
  • Increased complexity compared to traditional ad serving methods.

What Is prebid.js?

prebid.js is a powerful header bidding technology that was developed by AppNexus in 2015. It revolutionized the header bidding landscape and quickly gained popularity among publishers. With prebid.js, publishers can optimize their ad inventory and increase revenue by implementing a sophisticated wrapper that simplifies the management of multiple ad calls and ad server communications.

prebid.js allows publishers to set up line items, handle asynchronous ad calls, and seamlessly integrate with their ad server. Its open-source nature has encouraged widespread adoption, as it offers flexibility and customization options to meet the specific needs of different publishers.

With its robust features, prebid.js has proven to be a game-changer in the world of header bidding. It provides publishers with enhanced control and allows them to maximize their ad revenue potential. Publishers who have implemented prebid.js have reported significant increases in revenue, making it a must-have tool for those looking to optimize their header bidding strategy.

If you’re looking to take full advantage of the benefits of header bidding, prebid.js is a technology worth considering. Its user-friendly interface, extensive documentation, and active community support make it a reliable choice for publishers of all sizes.

Benefits of prebid.js:

  • Simplified ad server communications
  • Increased control over ad inventory
  • Optimized line item setup
  • Support for asynchronous ad calls
  • Customizable and flexible
  • Open-source with active community support

By leveraging prebid.js, publishers can unlock the full potential of header bidding and achieve higher ad revenue. Its comprehensive features and ease of implementation make it a valuable addition to any publisher’s toolkit.


In conclusion, header bidding is an advanced programmatic advertising technique that offers numerous benefits for publishers. It allows you to maximize your ad revenue by offering your ad inventory to multiple demand partners simultaneously. By implementing header bidding, you can take control of your advertising strategy and optimize your revenue streams.

One of the key advantages of header bidding is the increased control it provides. You have the power to choose which demand sources participate in the auction and prioritize certain advertisers. This control allows you to maximize the value of your ad inventory and attract higher bids from advertisers who have an affinity for your audience.

Additionally, header bidding offers higher yield and improved ad quality. By allowing all demand sources to compete in real-time, you can charge higher prices for your premium inventory and increase your revenue by 30-50%. The competition among the demand partners also ensures that you receive high-quality ads, enhancing the user experience on your website.

While header bidding may have some drawbacks, such as increased latency, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. You gain access to premium inventory and increased transparency, providing advertisers with a real look at all of your impressions. This transparency allows advertisers to make more informed decisions about their ad strategy and opens up new opportunities for partnerships.

Overall, header bidding is a valuable strategy for publishers in the online advertising ecosystem. By embracing this advanced technique, you can optimize your ad revenue, improve ad quality, and establish stronger partnerships with advertisers.


What is header bidding?

Header bidding is an advanced programmatic advertising technique that allows publishers to offer their ad inventory to multiple ad exchanges and ad networks simultaneously. It involves a real-time auction where bid requests are sent to multiple demand partners, increasing competition and maximizing ad revenue.

How does header bidding work?

Header bidding starts as soon as a webpage loads in the user’s browser. The header bidding code in the page header executes and calls all demand partners simultaneously to bid on the impression before calling the ad servers. The auction takes place within a specific time frame, usually within a second, and the highest bids are passed to the publisher’s ad server.

Why is header bidding better for publishers?

Header bidding offers several benefits for publishers. It allows them to charge higher prices for their inventory, increasing revenue by 30-50%. It also provides increased control, attracts higher bids, improves ad quality, reduces reporting discrepancies, and improves overall yield and fill rate.

How does header bidding help advertisers?

Advertisers benefit from header bidding through disintermediation, equal access to premium inventory, and increased transparency. It allows advertisers to make more informed decisions about their ad strategy and gain access to inventory that was previously only available through direct deals with publishers.

How do I set up header bidding?

To set up header bidding, publishers need to search for relevant demand partners, install and assemble a header bidding wrapper, and configure the format by setting auction time limits and floor prices for different ad segments. Popular header bidding wrappers include prebid.js.

What are header bidding wrappers?

Header bidding wrappers are software tools that organize all buyers and set the rules for the programmatic auction in header bidding. They allow publishers to maximize the number of demand sources competing for an impression without the added complexity of adding code for each new bidding partner.

What is prebid.js?

Prebid.js is an open-source header bidding wrapper designed by AppNexus. It allows publishers to set up line items and handle asynchronous, multiple ad calls with an ad server. Prebid.js has sophisticated tools for ad server communications and has been widely adopted by publishers to increase revenue.