Thought Leadership

What the Move to Server-Side Means for Adtech

May 22, 2019
By Garrett McGrath

Embracing the Shift to Server-Side Header Bidding in Programmatic

Across America, 74 percent of households now use at least one connected video device, be it a Roku, Smartphone, or Blu-ray player. Nearly 60 percent of Americans are streaming content.

With the proliferation of connected households, and a new gen of “digital natives,” comes increased expectations for streaming video. Marketers are eager to capitalize on broadened audiences and see their creative campaigns delivered at scale. Media providers and publishers must have access to the infrastructure to be able to deliver premium content across a plethora of devices at any given time.

Meanwhile, the rise of header bidding and, consequently, the increased volume of bids, has driven up infrastructure costs. While Client Side Header Bidding (CSHB) was once the modus operandi for publishers, this is rapidly changing: more publishers are now opting to use Server-Side Header Bidding (SSHB) solutions to outsource the entire auction bidding process. The overall win for publishers here is that SSHB doesn’t depend on the website’s browser, but on a remote server — making the page faster to load and improving the user experience.

With a third-party server to bear the brunt of the load, publisher’s browsers no longer have to strain under the weight of juggling multiple, simultaneous bids. With the right adtech partner, the entire ad buying process becomes simpler and more efficient.

Perhaps that’s why there’s been an industry-wide exodus to the server-side. Amazon rolled out its cloud-based server-side header bidding solution last year. As founders of, Rubicon Project’s open-source server header bidding solution is now being widely adopted by publishers, and Rubicon Project recently launched Prebid as a service with Demand Manager.

Here’s why the industry is embracing SSHB and leaving browsers behind.

Premium Quality on Speed

With SSHB, the heavy lifting happens on a remote server, not on the website’s browser. As opposed to traditional client-side header bidding, multiple calls aren’t causing JavaScript processes to run on the publisher’s web pages, slowing down page load. In this way, server-side’s faster performance dramatically reduces latency issues. The result is better ad quality: SSHB’s speed solves loading problems like blurry resolution or poor video playback.

Auctions are also more efficient: instead of waiting for multiple calls, decisions happen more efficiently because there’s only one call. After all, an auction is only as fast as its slowest bidder.

Ubiquitous Connectivity

Since SSHB offers a one-point solution that’s easily integrated across platforms and devices, it opens up an array of inventory, across devices and formats. Think apps, mobile, Digital-Out-Of-Home inventory (DOOH) like digital billboards, jukeboxes, and even connected TV. Moving to the server-side gives publishers the ability to plug into any type of media, and marketers the ability to launch programmatic campaigns across formats in one programmatic buy.

Looking forward, as more long-form live sports and news content is consumed across mobile and OTT devices, it will be powered by SSHB.

Universal ID Module

By 2020, we believe there will be a decisive shift from a programmatic world that is dominated primarily by client side header bidding to a world that’s dominated primarily by the server-side. The Universal ID module is a key component of that initiative, because it provides the potential to remove one of the main obstacles to adoption of SSHB, which is issues with matrix and user identification by buyers.

Before it can operate at its full potential, however, we will need to “solve the identity wars” and the issue of User Sync to make SSHB work. When we do, server-side header bidding solutions like Prebid will develop out to become a centralized header bidding system that could entirely replace the client side systems that exist today.

A Glimpse into the Future

Ultimately, server-side’s greatest promise is its ability to efficiently deliver ads across multiple devices, at the same time, at scale. This opens up a bevy of possibilities for media providers, publishers and marketers alike, all looking to capitalize on increased reach across various kinds of programmatic inventory. As the world goes browser-less and server-centric, SSHB will soon be ubiquitous.

To learn more about Rubicon Project’s Header Bidding Solutions, reach out to us at

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