Technology Digital Advertising Mobile

Header bidding without the header, mobile in-app


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September 23, 2016 | 5 min read

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Header bidding is the most talked about topic in ad tech today. It epitomizes the two imperatives that drive publishers to maximize yield (often through new technologies) and to crack the damn code on mobile monetization.



Considering publishers experience revenue lifts of 35 per cent or more from header bidding on desktop it’s no surprise they’re eager to replicate those benefits on mobile.

The benefit of header bidding - maximum competition obtains maximum value – is a constant regardless of environment. The execution of header bidding technology, however, is unique to its environment. In a desktop environment bidder code is placed in the header of a browser, hence the name ‘header bidding.’ Mobile environments, however, don’t have headers.

The details of header bidding in mobile

In the standard implementation, a header bidding SDK is implemented alongside a publisher’s primary monetization SDK. It takes complete control of the impression by intercepting the initial request, sending it out to the exchange or server-side mediation, returning the price as a key value into the primary SDK and finally rendering the ad-view if the bidder is successful.

The lighter version involves code that sits directly inside a publisher’s primary SDK, and is controlled via an API, which fires off a request to the mediation partner or exchange. A price is then sent back as a key value in exact same way as the other implementation.

Considerations to keep bidder solutions as light as possible have become even more important as demand for mobile app inventory has increased in volume and formats. Today buyers are increasingly using mobile for brand campaigns and publishers are offering inventory encompassing native advertising, standard and rewardable video. Initiatives to create a better, faster experience, like the lighter implementation, will potentially lead to more innovation in-app that will continue to deliver results for the publisher and enhance user experience.

Mobile publishers are exploring new ways to access increasingly differentiated demand without having to integrate a full-stack SDK with multiple libraries. We’ve seen a strong gravitation among publisher partners towards the lighter implementation and using an exchange partner to access all types of inventory through a simple API is a good way to avoid adding that extra weight to the app.

The 30,000 foot view

The trend toward the 'lighter’ bidder implementations in app is favored by larger, premium publishers because in addition to maximizing yield in a mobile environment, benefits include lighter weight in the app and publisher control over header bidding settings.

Emerging publishers often don’t have the insight, engineering resources, or comfort level to have a customized SDK or incorporate code into it, and often choose the path of using a specific header bidding SDK alongside their primary monetization SDK. The benefit, in addition to maximizing yield in a mobile environment, is that they are familiar with the process of SDK management.

When adding a new SDK partner, publishers and app-developers must find a careful balance between monetization capabilities and user experience. This is where having a lighter version benefits publishers, as it provides a way to include partner benefits without adding too much weight to the app.

Beyond mobile

We won’t be beyond mobile for quite some time. But the path of adaption and success in the mobile landscape is already paving the way with lessons we can use for the next emergent content consumption device to achieve dominance, whether that is HUD, IOT, AR, VR, or some combination of all.

The principle and importance of maximum competition to obtain maximum value is a programmatic constant, as is our industry imperative to always be looking for new ways to increase yield. The environment through which consumers consume will change, that’s also a constant. The conceptual and technical strengths of programmatic used to transact a significant and growing number of transactions occurring in the global $500bn advertising market, are well positioned to address what’s next.

Maggie Mesa, VP of mobile business development, OpenX

Tel: 1-855-673-6948


Twitter: @OpenX

Technology Digital Advertising Mobile

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