IAB Tech Lab Creates Header Bidding Container Standard

A new IAB Tech Lab standard will help publishers and platforms make their header bidding container setups as efficient as possible. The lab will accept public comment on the standard through July 28.

The lab decided to create a baseline standard because header bidding has started to mature.

“We don’t create standards until something has been used for a while,” said Alanna Gombert, general manager of IAB Tech Lab. “You have to watch it in the wild and understand the mechanics because you have enough information to create a baseline standard for the tech.”

The initial standard covers three main areas: line items, what data should travel from the header bidder to the ad server and standards around reporting and discrepancies.

Line items

Line items can create huge headaches for publishers and platforms. Assigned with different priorities, they give information to the ad server about how a specific campaign should run. With header bidding, many publishers create tens of thousands of additional line items, beyond their ad servers’ maximum allowance.

“Guess what’s going to happen techwise when you have too many line items?” Gombert said. “It’s going to choose at random. It’s not going to work.”

The standard helps publishers organize their line items, so their quantity can be reduced.

Moving Data

The second standard, around how data should be passed from the header bidder to the ad server, should help publishers receive more transparency from their partners. Many partners already pass on some or all of this information, but might mark it in inconsistent ways, Gombert said.

The guideline calls for the container to pass on the ID of the partner with the highest bid, the ID of the winning ad, the ad’s size and the winning CPM.


The lab’s header bidding standard details what information the containers should provide, including the ad requests and responses for each partner, who won each auction and which ad ended up being served.

Publishers should also agree in advance what to do with a partner when they encounter discrepancies, the standard notes, including setting a threshold for how many discrepancies are acceptable.

In the future, the IAB Tech Lab may create not only standards, but also tools for the industry. That could mean taking ownership of an open-source header bidding container like Prebid.js, which was created by AppNexus.

Before Gombert joined, AppNexus offered Prebid to the IAB Tech Lab. At the time, the lab didn’t want to pick a partner, but it’s ready and willing now.

“We would love to accept it now, and they know it,” Gombert said. “We were remiss in not taking in Prebid.”


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