Checklist: Choosing the Right Header Bidding Container

It’s been said that for every problem, there’s a solution. While that’s hardly the case, it’s still a bedrock truism for those who make their living by way of invention. There’s a common belief held among tech workers that logistical hurdles can be surmounted by technological means, provided enough time and some A/B testing.

But what happens when the tables turn, or the technologies grow obsolete, or the market shifts, as so often it does? What happens when a technological “solution” that tens of thousands of people rely upon becomes, itself, a problem to overcome?

Such is the case with header bidding containers. Originally meant to give publishers a workaround for the challenges posed by “closed-system” ad servers – closed in the sense of both their pricing and functionality – header-bidding containers have become something of a problem themselves, lately.

Here’s how it should work: a header-bidding container or wrapper ought to provide a publisher with a way of implementing several header bidding solutions all at once, without having to painstakingly install each solution, one by one, and manage them as individual line items. What’s more, it ought to provide publishers with the same kinds of transparent pricing, ease of installation and freedom to choose whichever bidding partners they want to work with. That, after all, was the whole concept behind header bidding to begin with.

But there are many instances where that’s no longer the case. Taking advantage of the relative “newness” of header-bidding containers, a whole generation of point-solution header-bidding companies has sprouted up. By charging publishers fees that aren’t oftentimes fully disclosed; by operating containers that prevent publishers from seeing which ad exchanges and networks are competing for their inventory; and by requiring lots of hand holding and pricey “tech support” when the technology breaks down, these new companies present, pretty much, more of the same-old same old: What once was a means of enabling publishers has developed into a means of hobbling them.

And so we’re back at square one. Or are we, really?

For all the fog and mystery that surround “closed-system” header-bidding solutions, there are open-source header-bidding solutions, too. Running on open-source javascript like AppNexus’ own prebid.js, these types of solutions continue to “keep it real” and transparent when it comes to how they function.

Basically, it all boils down to this: Know your partner! Learn how your vendor’s container operates and how much it costs, if anything. Learn whether it has any further benefits to it, like the ability to forecast new inventory – or provide your company with 24-hour tech support service if things go wrong.


To spell it all out, here’s an easy checklist of the most important questions you ought to be asking your container partner:


  1. Do you know if they are charging you anything for the technology they provide? If so, they’d better have a good reason, since there are plenty of open-source header-bidding containers out on the market that are transparent about fees and additional costs related to the service – not the tech.
  2. Are they charging you a service fee – and if so, then for what services? If they’re any good at what they’re doing, they should be available and on call whenever you need them, since digital advertising – and the ad serving that comes along with it – never, ever sleeps.
  3. Is your partner bringing anything else to the table in terms of improving the yield of your container? Are they ready to run the extra mile and provide you with optimization strategies tailored for your business’s specific needs? And if not, then why not? Aren’t they supposed to be experts in their field?
  4. Is the script that their container runs open-sourced or proprietary? If it’s proprietary, then that might pose a problem for your business over the long run. Because there will eventually come the day when you’ll want to know how to fix bugs and/or make container updates yourself – and not have to rely on another party to help you. More importantly, you’d also lose everything if you ever leave your partnership since they own the solution, so you’re tied into staying with them. But if the script’s open-source, then odds are you’ll be better off, since the code your container runs on is readily available for all eyes to see.
  5. This one’s pretty important… Is your container giving you transparent access to whichever demand sources you’re looking to do business with? If they’re not, then that’s a big problem. Because that means they’re repeating the same issue header bidding was meant to fix in the first place: the issue of transparency. If they’re not giving you access to whom you’re working with, how will you even know the true value of your inventory? How are they behaving any better than, well,
  6. How tricky is it to set the container up and s your tech vendor willing to go out of their way to walk you through the implementation process – or even implement your container for you – or are they willing to sit back and let you try and puzzle it all out, yourself? Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing for you to learn how to implement and update the container script that powers your business – but sometimes an extra hand or bit of advice can save the day – not to mention save you many dollars in yield.


To learn more how AppNexus header-bidding solutions can help your business grow incremental yield, feel free to contact us anytime! Meanwhile, we hope this primer was useful!

Of course, once you've picked your container, you need to decide who gets to bid. Download our latest white paper to learn how to choose the right demand partners for your header bidding setup.

  • Technology