Header bidding is a new technology that allows the publisher to create additional RTB (Real Time Bidding) competition between demand partners

As a publisher, we are used to building the traditional waterfall. We use DFP, enable dynamic allocation and we are good to go. As Google’s Ad Exchange (AdX) bids against everything running in your DFP and fills all impressions not taken by higher paying line items in DFP. Header Bidding (HB) challenges this method and creates RTB outside of DFP. Using pre-bid open source technology one creates Header Bidding between different demand partners.

How does it work?

First, we need to build the wrapper. The wrapper will contain all of the site’s demand partners. Then the wrapper calls all the partners simultaneously to bid on each impression. Unlike the waterfall method, HB calls all the premium demand partners with a timeout on each request. The returned bids from the demand partners are then compiled inside the wrapper and the highest bid is sent to DFP to compete with the existing campaigns and AdX. Since the prebid wrapper calls the HB partners before it calls the regular DFP demand partners (Including Google ADX), the “first look” goes only to the header bidding players.

For this reason the wrapper is the most important thing in the header bidding, without a very strong wrapper the pre bid will reach to his time out, and this will cause latency that will end in losing profits. Here at Adnimation we develop our in house wrapper that can support all the demand partners, and can scale.

After implementing Header Bidding one can expect to see very high CPMs, but a very low fill rate across all impressions. Just to note the HB partners all fill 100% of impressions they win, however the amount of impressions won by Header Bidding will be generally be between 1%-15% of your total paid impressions.

The strongest demand partners for header bidding:

  • OpenX – They are very picky with their publishers, and usually work only with very large publishers (Including Adnimation).
  • Amazon – They are looking for users who have items in their Amazon shopping cart. For these users they are willing to pay a very high CPM.
  • Criteo – The biggest re-targeting network, very low fill rate and very high CPM.
  • PulsePoint – they are not the biggest player out there, but performing pretty well.
  • Index Exchange – They have a special UI and a different way to integrate new bidders. They are hard to communicate with, but it’s worth it.
  • AOL – Very complicated UI, and they are tough to deal with, but their demand is pretty strong.
  • District M – High CPM’s very strong with tier 1 countries.
  • Sovrn – They are very picky and it’s almost impossible to get accepted.



This is the most difficult part, unlike with Adsense or DFP, one needs to use an expert developer.  We need to start at the beginning, building the wrapper. The wrapper needs to include all the bidders. The code for each bidder will be broken down by size and the individual ad unit on the page. There are also times where the bidder needs to be customized based on Currency Exchange rates. The code can be complex and you want to make sure that once it is implemented you are not losing impressions due to timeouts or other problems with the rendering of the ads. After adding the code on the page then we need to build a special setup in DFP. There needs a lot of line items for each price level so that it can compete with Dynamic Allocation. It’s recommended to create an application that works with the DFP API to create these line items and orders, like the one we use here at Adnimation.

Usually, we will have 400-500 different line items to each demand partner, like this example below:

Header bidding

HB set up – Adnimation 435 line item delivering


Where are we heading?

Exchange Bidding – Google will also join the Header Bidding party and start working HB in their products like AdX. Google is going to leverage her multiple demand partners into DFP, and create RTB pre-bid technology inside their closed garden. You can read more about it here.

Server side header bidding – This solution offers a lot of clear advantages, very simple integration, no latency,  easy to add new partners, very strong servers that can process the request in no time. This is the next step in the evolution of Header Bidding. You can read more about it here.


There is no doubt that any reasonable publisher needs to add HB technology to their site. By adding HB into the stack, one will increase the overall RPM as well as maximize the revenue per ad unit and user. Of course, it’s not simple and can be very frustrating some times, so hire a professional. You can check our header bidding solution or try it yourself, but you need to do it.

Have any question about header bidding? Feeling overwhelmed? Send us a question and we will reply within 24 hours.


Maor Davidovish

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