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Header Bidding vs Open Bidding – What Should You Know!

Header Bidding Vs Exchange Bidding
What you need to know - Header Bidding Vs Exchange Bidding.

The essence of programmatic advertising can be brought down to two phrases: Getting the right value for impressions and appearing in front of the right audience. Header Bidding and Open Bidding are here to offer both. Then, who’s the winner – Header Bidding Vs Open Bidding? Let’s dive deeper into it.

We’ve come a long way from the days where the publishers and advertisers relied completely on Google to monetize their inventories.

In fact, Header Bidding has its unbeatable place in today’s programmatic advertising not only because it helps publishers and advertisers to trade more optimally, but also it gives them the flexibility they need.

Of course, Google and Facebook’s duopoly can’t be chipped away just by Header Bidding. But, it’s a key hack that will have its place in adtech. Keeping the future of Header Bidding aside, we’ll try to focus on Header Bidding Vs Open Bidding in this piece.

We’ll discuss what they are, how they work, and what are the differences between the two bidding technologies.

Table of Contents

What’s the Difference Between Header Bidding and Open Bidding?

Header Bidding or Pre-bidding is an advanced programmatic technique where you can open your inventories to several demand partners before sending the call to the ad server. Whereas, Google’s Open Bidding is a server-side unified auction where several ad exchanges and SSPs compete along with Google’s Ad Exchange (AdX) to win the impressions, just like header bidding. The only difference is, the auction takes place on the server-side rather than the client. 

Long Answer:

Header Bidding

As we mentioned before, in the header bidding process, ad requests from your ad server are sent to several demand partners simultaneously. Each time an ad request is sent, the header tag initiates the auction, collects bids from all demand partners, and then passes the highest bid to the ad server. Now, the ad server compares the highest bid with Sponsored, Direct or Programmatic deals, and serves the ad creative to the user. Since the received bids are made to compete with the ad server’s demand, it increases your eCPM and revenue substantially.

Here’s a quick overview of how Header Bidding works:

how header bidding works

Why should you implement header bidding?

To avoid:

– Waterfall setup of ad server and

– Google AdX Privilege.

By avoiding them, you can yield better revenue and put everyone on the same foot. Need to know more about the ‘Waterfall’ and ‘Google AdX Privilege’ and why you should avoid them? As a result of header bidding, publishers have seen improved ad revenue without increasing the number of ad units.

As per Kevel’s latest header bidding report, close to 67 percent of the top US sites that use programmatic to sell ads use ‘Header Bidding’ to monetize their inventories. The adoption rate has been gradually increasing for the last few years.

Header bidding adoption 2019

Even though header bidding increases the revenue by up to 60 percent, publishers need to partner with the right companies (SSPs) to get the results.

At Automatad, we offerheader bidding wrapper for mid-market and premium publishers and ensure ad quality and superior user experience at all costs. In case you are looking to explore more on header bidding and optimization, reach us at automatad.com.

Open Bidding

Google’s Open Bidding is a server-side unified auction where several Ad Exchanges and SSPs can compete along with Google’s Ad Exchange (AdX) to win the impressions, just like header bidding. The only difference is, the auction takes place on the server-side rather than the client. 

To be frank, Open Bidding was a counter punch by Google to Header Bidding vendors. Google even dropped its last look advantage in EBDA to make itself more friendly.

The main difference is, the auction will be happening inside GAM (ad server), not on the users’ browser. Here’s how the process looks like:

  1. An ad request is triggered and the information is passed to the GAM ad server.
  2. GAM runs a unified auction to determine the best yield
    • GAM selects the best-trafficked line item to compete in the unified auction
    • GAM sends a bid request to targeted yield partners
    • Targeted yield partners run their own auction and return their most competitive bid to GAM
    • GAM hosts a unified auction and selects a winner
  1. A creative is served to the user.

Open Bidding Workflow

Both have their own pros and cons. For instance, Header Bidding will be completely transparent and can be managed or customized by publishers. And, with the availability of open-source header bidding technologies like Prebid, it has become much easier to implement and execute header bidding.

On the other hand, Open Bidding helps you to deal with page latency. As we’ve shifted the auction to the server-side, the number of ad requests and wait time can be reduced. But, the server takes care of the auction and publishers have no control here.

What’s Server-Side Header Bidding?

Server-Side Header bidding was developed to execute header bidding on the server rather than on browsers. This, in turn, reduces page latency and frees up the limit implied on publishers (In Client-Side Header Bidding, publishers can add up to 7 or 8 demand partners. If the count exceeds, page latency will be high). However, publishers and advertisers face an issue with the match rates in this technique.


There’s no single method with no drawbacks. It’s up to you to decide and execute the right solution. If you’re a mid-range publisher, you need a transparent solution where exchanges and SSPs can integrate with you for free. After all, we’re talking about a few extra milliseconds of load time in header bidding. If you’re a premium publisher, then you can consider implementing it on the Server-Side.

Still, confused about which one is better for you? Let us help you out.

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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