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If you’re a publisher who is trying to decide between programmatic vs. header bidding for your digital ad sales strategy, we have good news: you don’t have to choose.

That’s because you can implement both. In fact, to do header bidding, you have to play the programmatic advertising game. Still, we know publishers have a lot of questions about programmatic advertising and header bidding, so we have addressed those issues in this post.

To get the best of programmatic and header bidding and keep your ad revenue at the tip top of the charts, work with Playwire. Find out more about our revenue amplification platform.

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Read our complete guide to Header Bidding for everything you need to know.

Header Bidding: a Programmatic Advertising Technique

You can get the answer to the “programmatic vs. header bidding” question by changing one letter. Instead of “vs,” it’s “is” — programmatic is header bidding. Or, rather, header bidding is a programmatic advertising technique.

Enough wordplay. Here’s the point: programmatic advertising is the ad selling and buying process, mostly automated. Header bidding is an efficient way of selling ads inside the programmatic sphere.

The Real Question: Header Bidding vs. the Waterfall Method

Asking someone to compare programmatic advertising with header bidding is like asking someone to compare vegetables with carrots. In other words, the question doesn’t quite work. Still, it’s hard to exaggerate the importance of header bidding in the history of programmatic advertising. So, what exactly did header bidding change?

Put simply, it changed the way we auction ad inventory. It made it a more democratic process that was fair for both publishers and advertisers. 

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The Waterfall Method

To put it lightly, the old way of doing auctions, called the waterfall method, had some problems. You may remember it —bid requests would go to buyers one by one. The buyer would make a bid or decline. If the bid didn’t exceed the price floor, the bidding process would move down the list to the next bidder.

Bidders were organized by perceived importance. How likely they were to make a good bid helped to determine their placement on the list.

Here’s the problem with that: sometimes, bidders who were lower on the list were likely to make a higher bid than bidders who were higher on the list. But if the higher-up bidders made an acceptable bid, the entire process stopped. The publisher never got the highest bid — just the first bid that was above the price floor. Meanwhile, advertisers who weren’t considered the big dogs struggled to get a chance to bid on the premium inventory they actually wanted and were willing to pay a lot for.

Enter Header Bidding

In 2014, header bidding entered the chat — at least, it was the technology that would soon be known as header bidding. This technique offered a whole new way to do auctions, and this new method eliminated some of the most concerning problems of the waterfall method.

Header bidding put a stop to the one-by-one approach to requesting bids from bidders. Instead, it sent the requests for bids to all bidders the publisher had selected all at once. Blind to the bids the other buyers were making, each bidder would enter a bid for the same inventory in question. That information came back to the publisher’s header bidding server or wrapper, and the highest bidder got the inventory.

With this simple header bidding process change, two problems were solved: publishers got the highest possible bid, and smaller advertisers could get inventory that was valuable to them if they were willing to aim high.

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Programmatic vs. Header Bidding: Which Is Better for Publishers?

At Playwire, when we’re trying to decide between two or more choices, we always ask ourselves this question: what’s better for publishers? That’s because we put publishers first in everything we do. And it’s a fair question to apply to programmatic vs. header bidding.

In the end, if you’re going to do programmatic advertising to sell your ad inventory, you should also do header bidding. Why? Because header bidding gets you the best bid at every auction — not just the first acceptable bid. And because header bidding increases your access to inventory demand, it also increases your fill rates. Hard to argue with that. 

Programmatic, Header Bidding and Everything Else Publishers Need

Decisions like the choice between pure programmatic vs. header bidding can be confusing, and among busy publishers who are trying to create great content, who has the time? At Playwire, we ask you to make only one choice: choose our platform. Then, we handle the rest.

We have built the most advanced publisher revenue-generation platform on the market today, and we’re proud of it. We combine programmatic, header bidding implementation, direct demand and dozens of other revenue factors to turn our publishers into revenue-generating machines. It’s what we do. It’s what we love.

If you’re ready to stop worrying and find a revenue platform you love, get in touch with our expert team. Give us a call at 1-561-206-4621 or contact us online to start the conversation.

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