Key Points

  • An advanced programmatic advertising technique, header bidding technology enables publishers to increase their ad revenue.
  • While various platforms and tools have emerged in the header bidding ad space, the basics of the technology remain the same.
  • A header bidding solution is deceptively simple and requires a lot of tech knowledge and attention to manage it properly.

A lot of tech is involved in ad tech, but a few innovations truly changed the game for both web and app publishers and advertisers. Ad servers and programmatic advertising are some of the big ones, but a more recent - and perhaps more impactful - innovation in the ad space is header bidding. 

Header bidding technology brought to the table the ability to capture the best bid on every ad impression - not just the first bid. It's an advanced programmatic advertising technique that truly repaved the road to higher ad revenue for many publishers.

The problem: It's complicated. It's a big, complex piece of technology that takes a lot of technical knowledge to implement effectively. And even when it's effectively implemented, you have to manage and optimize it constantly to make it work at maximum capacity.

To help you understand how this all comes together, the Playwire team has put together this brief guide to header bidding technology. Read on to learn how header bidding works.

You can keep reading, or, if you don't really want to become a header bidding expert and manage it all yourself, you can simply reach out to Playwire. Our dedicated team will manage every aspect of your revenue operations, including your header bidding efforts, to maximize your ad revenue. Contact us.

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The Complete Guide to Header Bidding

Read the Guide! The Complete Guide to Header Bidding

Header Bidding Technology: The Basics

The most essential piece of technology involved in a header bidding solution is its innovative auction process. You're likely familiar with the traditional waterfall auction in programmatic advertising, in which your requests for bids on impressions are sent to one demand source at a time, and the first acceptable bid is chosen. But the header bidding auction does it differently.

Here's how it works: Your requests for bids go out to every header bidder simultaneously, and they all submit their bids for your premium inventory blind to other bids. Then, the highest bid is chosen - rather than the first bid.


In essence, that means the highest bidder wins every time. Over tens of thousands of auctions in a single month, those higher CPMs begin to add up in a big way, and that's the revolutionizing factor of header bidding technology.

Pieces of the Header Bidding Puzzle

The header bidding auction is the most important piece to understand if you're trying to get a grasp on the technology involved in this process. But for that auction to work properly, you have to involve several smaller pieces of technology, which we cover below.

Header Bidding Wrapper

To do header bidding on your website, you have to initiate the process with some code. That code is contained in your header bidding wrapper. It's called a wrapper because it wraps up the code that initiates header bidding auctions, your auction rules, and your individual bidders into a neat piece of code - usually in the header of your website.

You don't have to have a header bidding wrapper to do header bidding, but you do have to have all of the smaller pieces of information it contains. 

Demand Sources

To complete even a single header bidding auction, you have to actually have someone bidding on your ad inventory. These demand sources, called header bidders, are numerous, and it's up to you to select the ones you want bidding on and winning your inventory.

Demand sources for header bidding may be supply-side platforms (SSPs), ad exchanges, ad networks, and similar tools. Once you have chosen which ones you want to integrate into your header bidding setup, you then have to loop them into your header bidding wrapper to make sure they receive calls for bids from you.


Ad Servers

If you're doing server-side header bidding - in which the auctions take place on a separate server rather than in the header of your website - you will need to consider a header bidding server as part of the header bidding technology you need to implement. 

But even if you're doing client-side header bidding only, you will need to have a reliable ad server that can handle the large volume of ad requests you are likely to receive if you start doing header bidding.

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The Complete Header Bidding Resource Center

The Complete Header Bidding Resource Center

Enhancing Header Bidding Technology

We've covered the basics, and they really haven't changed much in the handful of years header bidding has been around. But what has changed is the number of tools saying they have a way to optimize your header bidding processes to help you bring in more revenue.

Today, real innovation happens in what an ad monetization platform builds on top of their header bidding technology. For instance, our product development and ad ops teams have spent 15 years developing proprietary technology rooted in machine learning algorithms.

This technology sits on top of header bidding configurations to constantly optimize them in real-time, leading to maximum CPMs every time. We call it Revenue Intelligence, and it's changing the game for web and app publishers in much the same way that early header bidding did several years ago.

Work with a Leader in Header Bidding Tech

Header bidding technology is a game-changer. There's no doubt about that. But if you implement it poorly or fail to manage it properly, it won't change much of anything - aside from increasing your stress and frustration. 

Why not get it done right? That's a big part of what we do at Playwire. Using proprietary technology and unmatched ad tech expertise, our team optimizes every aspect of your revenue to make sure you're bringing in the maximum on every ad impression. You focus on your content while your revenue climbs. To get started, reach out to our team online.

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