Choosing the right ad serving approach can significantly influence a publisher’s revenue potential. While both “header bidding” and “waterfall ad serving” are popular techniques, the scales are tilting more towards header bidding due to its apparent advantages. This guide focuses on showcasing the strengths of header bidding while highlighting the challenges with the waterfall method, all to assist publishers in making an informed choice.


What You’ll Learn:

  1. A deep dive into the mechanics of header bidding and how it’s shaping the future of digital advertising.
  2. Understanding the traditional waterfall ad serving technique and its limitations.
  3. The prominent role of “Prebid.js” in facilitating efficient header bidding.
  4.  Recognizing potential pitfalls in the waterfall method, such as ad display delays and discrepancies from passback processes.
  5. Header Bidding vs. Waterfall: A Detailed Comparison


The landscape of digital advertising has seen significant shifts, with Header Bidding and Waterfall Ad Serving at the forefront. Header Bidding, underpinned by technologies like Prebid.js, offers a democratic and efficient means for publishers to engage with demand partners like Magnite, Adform, Index Exchange, and Criteo among hundreds others. By allowing simultaneous bid requests from multiple advertisers, header bidding amplifies competition, potentially driving higher CPMs and ensuring optimal fill rates.

Waterfall Ad Serving, in contrast, operates on a systematic, sequential offering of ad inventory based on a priority list. While it brings an element of predictability, the waterfall approach can lead to delays in ad display and discrepancies caused by passback processes. Moreover, certain demand partners crucial for specific publishers might not be compatible with Prebid.js, making the waterfall method sometimes the only option.

Integration with global giants like Magnite and Criteo means that header bidding often results in a “First Price-Auction” mechanism, where each bidder knows the exact price to beat. This transparency, combined with reduced “Timeouts” and efficient “Bid Request” handling, underscores why header bidding is becoming the preferred choice for many.


Why Choose Header Bidding?

  • Maximized Revenue with Top SSPs: Leveraging renowned SSP providers, header bidding ensures a competitive auction environment. This often translates into higher bids and substantial revenues for publishers.
  • Transparency and Fair Competition: A transparent process means every advertiser, whether big or small, gets an equal chance. The integration with platforms like Prebid.js ensures a seamless, open auction.
  • Increased Fill Rates and Speed: By tapping into multiple demand sources simultaneously, header bidding often leads to impressive fill rates. And with the power of technologies like Prebid.js, latency issues are effectively managed.
  • Flexibility and Control: Header bidding gives publishers the freedom to experiment and optimize strategies, ensuring they’re always aligned with the dynamic digital marketplace.
  • The Power of Prebid.js: As the global leader in header bidding technology, Prebid.js streamlines the auction process, ensuring efficiency, fairness, and profitability for publishers.


However, it’s crucial to remember that while header bidding offers numerous advantages, its implementation can be technically challenging. Partnering with experts or leveraging tools like Prebid.js can ease this transition.


Why Choose Waterfall Ad Serving?

Despite the shift towards header bidding, there are reasons why some publishers might still opt for the waterfall method:

  • Simplicity and Predictability: The structured, tiered approach of the waterfall method is easy to follow and offers consistent outcomes.
  • Compatibility with Traditional Systems: Not all demand partners are compatible with header bidding standards like Prebid.js. In such scenarios, waterfall remains a viable option.
  • Controlled Environment: For publishers who prefer a more structured and predictable approach, waterfall provides that serenity.


While the waterfall approach has its merits, particularly its simplicity and ease of management, the evolution of digital advertising and technologies like Prebid.js is making header bidding an increasingly attractive option. For publishers, choosing between waterfall and header bidding isn’t just about potential revenue or compatibility with demand partners; it’s also about the human resources and level of expertise required for setup and ongoing management.

Waterfall Ad Serving is often preferred for its straightforwardness, making it manageable even with a basic level of employee knowledge. This can be a significant advantage for publishers with limited technical resources or those who prefer a more hands-off approach.

On the other hand, Header Bidding, particularly solutions leveraging technologies like Prebid.js, requires a higher level of expertise. Its implementation and optimization demand more advanced skills and knowledge, which may necessitate additional training or hiring specialized staff. This can be a consideration for publishers weighing the costs and benefits of more sophisticated, yet potentially more lucrative, advertising strategies.

In summary, publishers must consider not only the technical aspects and potential revenue implications of these advertising methods but also the human resource requirements and expertise level needed to effectively implement and manage these systems.

In conclusion, the world of online advertising is vast and ever-evolving. Publishers equipped with knowledge about the strengths of header bidding, the limitations of the waterfall method, and the capabilities of technologies like Prebid.js, will be better positioned to navigate this dynamic landscape and achieve advertising success.

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