Definition of Header Bidding

Header bidding is a programmatic advertising technique that allows multiple demand partners (advertisers) to simultaneously bid on a publisher’s ad inventory before the publisher’s ad server gets involved. By facilitating this real-time auction, header bidding increases competition and helps publishers maximize their revenue. It works through a specialized code that’s inserted into the header section of a website or app, which then triggers the simultaneous auction process.


The phonetics for the keyword “Header Bidding” is:ˈhɛdər ˈbɪdɪŋ

Key Takeaways

  1. Header bidding enables publishers to increase revenue by allowing multiple ad exchanges to compete for ad space simultaneously, resulting in higher CPMs (cost per thousand) and better fill rates.
  2. It provides a more transparent and fair ad serving environment by reducing latency, allowing all demand partners to access inventory at the same time, and preventing the inefficiencies caused by traditional ad waterfall methods.
  3. Implementing header bidding can be complex, as it requires technical expertise, careful setup, ongoing optimization, and management of the implemented demand partners to ensure smooth execution and maintain site performance.

Importance of Header Bidding

Header bidding is an important digital marketing term because it revolutionizes the way publishers maximize their advertising revenue.

By allowing multiple ad exchanges to bid on the available ad inventory simultaneously, header bidding promotes greater transparency, stronger competition among advertisers, and ultimately leads to higher CPM rates for publishers.

This advanced programmatic technique enables publishers to receive multiple bids for a single impression, effectively democratizing their ad inventory’s value and granting them the opportunity to work with a diverse pool of advertisers.

As a result, header bidding plays a crucial role in optimizing revenue generation, ensuring a more efficient and lucrative digital advertising ecosystem for all parties involved.


Header Bidding serves a crucial purpose in the digital marketing landscape by streamlining and optimizing the process of selling advertising space on publisher websites. By providing an auction-like atmosphere, it allows multiple advertisers to compete for ad space simultaneously, thus driving fairer competition and increasing the potential ad revenue for publishers.

The primary goal of this technology is to give a level playing field for all advertisers to access ad inventory and ensure publishers get the best possible price for their ad slots, ideally increasing their advertising yields and ultimately, revenue. Another essential aspect of Header Bidding is its ability to reduce the latency that comes with the traditional waterfall method, where ad space is offered to potential buyers in a sequential approach, often resulting in delays and inefficiencies.

By allowing all demand partners to bid concurrently, publishers can avoid bottlenecks associated with the demand waterfall and gather bids in real-time. This real-time competition empowers publishers to have more control over their inventory, eliminate the risks of unsold ad space, and bolster revenue while providing advertisers with more chances to reach their target audience effectively.

As a result, Header Bidding plays a pivotal role in enhancing the overall ad-buying experience in today’s digital marketing ecosystem.

Examples of Header Bidding

Amazon Transparent Ad Marketplace (TAM): Amazon’s Transparent Ad Marketplace (TAM) is an example of a leading header bidding solution in the digital marketing landscape. It allows third-party demand partners to compete in a real-time auction for ad impressions alongside Amazon’s own demand. This real-time auction enables publishers to maximize revenue by finding the highest paying buyer for every ad impression. By utilizing TAM, publishers ensure that they get the highest CPM (cost per thousand impressions) rates for their inventory, while advertisers can access premium inventory and target the ideal audience for their products.

New York Times’ adoption of header bidding: The New York Times is a renowned publisher that has adopted header bidding to optimize its advertising revenue. The newspaper company uses header bidding to create a competitive marketplace for their ad inventory, allowing multiple demand partners to bid on the available advertising slots simultaneously. This has helped them increase their advertising revenue as they are able to choose the highest bidder for each ad space, ensuring maximum yield. By leveraging header bidding, the New York Times can offer its advertisers better opportunities to target their desired audience while getting a higher return on ad spend.

AppNexus AppNexus, a leading ad technology company, launched, an open-source header bidding platform, as a modern example of a header bidding solution. provides easy integration for publishers, ensuring that demand partners can bid on ad inventory in real-time. By adopting the platform, publishers can increase the competition among demand partners, resulting in higher CPMs and greater ad revenue. Meanwhile, advertisers get more access and control over their programmatic buying, giving them increased transparency and a better opportunity to reach their target audiences.

FAQ for Header Bidding

1. What is header bidding?

Header bidding is a programmatic advertising technique that allows publishers to offer their ad inventory to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously before making a call to their ad server. This competition helps to increase the ad revenue for the publisher, as buyers have to compete in real-time to win the impression.

2. How does header bidding work?

In the header bidding process, publishers place a JavaScript code (header bidding wrapper) in the header of their website. This code calls multiple ad exchange partners to submit their bids for the available ad impression. Ad exchanges send the highest bid to the ad server, which then compares the bids with its direct-sold and other programmatic demand. The ad server ultimately decides the winning bid and displays the winning ad.

3. What are the benefits of header bidding?

Header bidding offers several benefits for publishers, such as increased ad revenue, better ad fill rates, more control over the auction process, reduced discrepancy rates, and a better understanding of the value of their ad inventory. Advertisers also benefit from header bidding, as it offers them better visibility into available inventory and access to a wider range of premium ad placements.

4. What’s the difference between header bidding and traditional waterfalling?

In traditional waterfalling, also called daisy-chaining, ad requests are sent to demand sources sequentially, from the highest-paying to the lowest-paying. If the first demand source doesn’t fill the ad request, it moves on to the second, and so on. This process usually results in inefficiency and suboptimal performance. Header bidding, on the other hand, allows multiple demand sources to compete for the same ad impression at the same time, leading to a more efficient auction process and better overall yield for publishers.

5. What are the main challenges associated with header bidding?

Although header bidding has many advantages, it also comes with a few challenges, such as increased page load times, additional technical complexity, and potential management difficulties for publishers. Additionally, due to the increased number of requests and competition, there may be an ongoing need to monitor and optimize the performance of header bidding partners.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Real-Time Bidding (RTB)
  • Ad Exchange
  • Programmatic Advertising
  • Waterfall Auction
  • Prebid.js

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