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Bidstream Data: +1 Way to Enrich Your Targeting in Programmatic

Nov 15, 20238 min read
Kate Novatska
Kate Novatska, AdTech Expert

Data is that new gold! Especially after Google announced the abolition of 3rd party-cookies in Chrome, it feels like the gold rush has started all over again. First-party data, third-party data, sources that make targeting possible...

Programmatic advertising is full of mysteries, and one of the non-obvious processes that happens during the auction is the collection and transmission of so-called bidstream. Being the essential data to make the RTB happen as intended, bidstream is also hiding the extra value for enriching your targeting.

So, while the digital world seems to be crumbling down with the crumbling cookies and industry giants overthinking the cohorts, Unified IDs, hashed everything, it is time to remind you of the good old proven methods, such as bidstream data that may be a worthy cookie workaround.

The Definition of Bidstream Data

In simple words: bidstream data is the information that a supply-side (publisher) passes to the demand side (advertisers) to decide on whether they want to bid on this piece of inventory.

In more details: bidstream data is a piece of code with encrypted details about the "offer" passed with the bid request from the supply-side platform (or perhaps an ad server) to ad exchanges, and eventually demand-side platforms.

Bidstream data does not contain PII (personally identifiable information), but it does contain information about:

  • the inventory that is being offered: domain of the site, the domain of the extended page where the ad will be displayed, ad unit format and size;
  • user location: IP address, geo, ZIP code;
  • user device properties: type and model, screen size, etc.

In some cases, bidstream data may contain up to 50 attributes, including bits that are considered personal information, but predominantly when we talk about bidstream data we mean location.

Important note: DSPs receive the information about all the bids, even those which were not winning ones.

How is Bidstream Data Collected?

Benefits of bidstream data

Step #1. Basically any digital RTB auction is a user visiting the website/app.

Step #2. The publisher/SSP gets the user's information from their server. Sprinkle it with their information about the ad spot and the bid floor, thus making it into a bid request.

Step #3. This bid request is then sent by the SSP further to an ad exchange (or several exchanges) where the bid request meets with multiple bids from the demand-side platform (DSP).

Step #4. All the DSPs (!) get this information about the placement and the user and one bid that matches the bid request in the best possible way eventually wins.

So, when the system has made the perfect match and chose the winning bid, it then sends this bid's information, now together with the creative, back to the SSP. And the SSP sends it back to the publishers, so the user can now see the ad (of the winning bid) on the designated place of the web page.

champagne to all the participants*

Important note: While it sounds like a journey, it all happens in milliseconds.

Why is Bidstream Data So Valuable for the Whole Programmatic Ecosystem?

In reality, bidstream data is useful to all the parties involved in the programmatic process or buying and selling ads. It helps to marry the sell and buy-side in digital heaven. Bidstream helps to transport all necessary and additional information from the publisher to advertiser and help everyone win on the best possible match.

Let's see how the collection and wise use of bidstream data can help all parties here.

How bidstream data is collected

Benefits of Bidstream Data for Publishers

Higher monetization revenue. Publishers can sell their inventory at the highest rate by providing more information about the user and the ad spot. Initially, bidstream data was invented for publishers to get higher CPM for their inventory.

Extra profits from data sales. Publishers can put their location data to use: perhaps joining a Unified ID or selling it to a DMP. You can read more about trends in 1st-party data usage here.

Benefits of Bidstream Data for Advertisers

Better segmentation of users. When advertisers are using the white-label DSP, they can get access to all the user data passed during the RTB auction.

Analytics. Having this much user data on hand, advertisers can understand the user behavior, how they perceive different campaigns based on various impersonal attributes, thus cutting the underperforming locations. Additionally, utilizing hardware-based data security measures ensures that this sensitive user data remains protected from potential breaches, enhancing the data privacy of the advertising efforts.

Predictions and targeting. Given all the data (and it's a lot), advertisers can predict users' behavior for future campaigns and target precise and narrow audiences without any additional data instruments.

Benefits of Bidstream Data for Users

Relevance. One of the top reasons why people switch on ad blockers is because ads they see are irrelevant. So, upgrading the relevancy game is a significant advantage over the others. It seems like the partying of the 3rd-party cookies will put a halt to it, but with wise use of the bidstream data, it doesn't have to.

If you feel like you would like to learn more about possible players of the ad tech industry, check out this article.

Drawbacks and Challenges of the Bidstream Data


Bidstream data provides us with a ton of user data. However, to make use of you would need:

  • an in-house team (for sure), who will extract this data from the DSP and analyse it;
  • a machine learning tool that would sort through the data and break it down into digestible categories.


Bidstream data does not provide precise and parsed information like, for example, a DMP. However, it is like a separate investment given its price, and we are not 100% sure if it is always justified.

Obviously, if your ad budget is calculated in hundreds of thousands of dollars, it probably makes sense to invest in many different tools. But we see no reason for that if you are using a white-label DSP solution that provides you with a perfectly working instrument that is also free.

Can Bidstream Data Replace DMP or 3rd-Party Cookies?

The bidstream data cannot replace DMP or 3rd-party cookies. Otherwise, there would be no drama surrounding Google Chrome during the last two years.

However, bidstream data can undoubtedly provide enough information to create highly targeted ad campaigns. Sure, given the information from the chapter above, it would require you to be a white-label DSP user and have a team of professionals who can use this data.

Here is when we recommend using a WL DSP:

  • if your monthly spend on advertising is $20 000 or above, then a WL DSP is a sounder solution;
  • since 3rd-party cookies are going away anyway and the industry is creating all sorts of Unified IDs, publishers' cohorts, etc., why not take advantage of a feature that has proven to be working.

As for the DMP (Data Management Platform), we should understand that with bidstream data, there is obviously no management part.

Bidstream data provides you with a great amount of information that you should sort and manage yourself. There are no pre-set user segments ready to be targeted like in a DMP. However, having all the data on hand, you can parse it to Your likings (needs).

Also, DMPs rely on 3rd-party cookies and therefore will not be as efficient when the "time to say goodbye" comes, if they don't implement some solution that is based on 1st-party data.

Medium importance note: unlike a DMP, bidstream data is free.

DMP Bidstream Data
Key Advantage Manages and parses user segments ready to be targeted Provides essential user data and comes by default in a white-label DSP (free)
Key Disadvantage Relies on 3rd-party cookies Requires extra effort to be applied

Controversy Surrounding Bidstream Data: Privacy Standards and Regulations

With the ever-rising popularity of data, the question of data protection becomes more acute. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the EU, CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), and other institutions in the US are meant to protect us, regular users, from personal information, spread and leakage.

The reason why the odious 3rd-party cookies are crumbling is exactly that - there is too much personal user information circulating online and not everyone uses it for the good.

However, do these restrictions apply to bidstream data? Well, this is honestly a philosophical question. Some say yes, some say no, but if we were to put all the lyrics aside and look at the facts:

  1. bidstream data does sit somewhere on the edge of the GDPR and CCPA vision of privacy since location is kind of a personal identifier;
  2. the most recent IAB RTB 3.0 protocol gave more freedom and flexibility in terms of the bidstream data. Does it contradict its own outlook on the user's privacy policy? Maybe. However, at the moment, the industry will just not allow to "kill" the RTB advertising for sure;
  3. abolition of 3rd-party cookies may strip bidstream data of some more personal identifiers, but there will be enough to stitch various user identity attributes into specific categories for tracking.

How Does Bidstream Data Work from the Tech Point?

As we have learnt, all parties of the programmatic ecosystem benefit from the bidstream data, but there is a category of advertisers that benefits from bidstream data more than others – white-label DSP users. They are the ones who get access to all the publishers’ user data.

Self-serve DSP also relies on bidstream data, but only to make bid requests. Its users have no access to the information and its further utilization for personal use.

If we consider DSP users – they receive an extensive file with all the bidstream data information. This file then can be run through a machine learning tool that would analyze, parse, and segment the users into categories.

This way, a separate advertiser gains full control of the user data, and can create as many unique targeting categories as one likes and predict user behavior based on the historical data from the previous campaigns.

Key Takeaways from the Bidstream Data Collection

  • Bidstream data is non-personal user data that is transferred from a publisher to an advertiser during the RTB auction;
  • It exists to make the RTB possible and effective;
  • It is a free tool once you use a white-label DSP;
  • To make use of all the bidstream data, you need an in-house team and machine learning tools to help you manage, analyze, and parse the data (buy, Boy, is it worth it!);
  • Bidstream data is not illegal in terms of Privacy Policy, since it does not use personal identifiers;
  • Bidstream data is a worthy alternative for the DMP, 3rd-party cookies (at its level);
  • Bidstream data is here to stay even when 3rd-party cookies are long gone.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the meaning of bidstream?

    Bidstream refers to the flow of data generated during real-time ad auctions. It includes details about the user, the ad inventory, and the bids made by advertisers. The term emphasizes the swift and continuous nature of data exchange during the bidding process.

  • What is a programmatic bidstream?

    A programmatic bidstream is the data obtained from programmatic advertising auctions. Programmatic advertising automates the buying and selling of ad impressions in real-time. The bidstream includes information about the user, the ad inventory, and the bidding parameters, allowing advertisers to make data-driven decisions in milliseconds.

  • How is bidstream data collected?

    Bidstream data is collected through the RTB auctions. When a user visits a website or app, an ad impression becomes available. Advertisers bid on these impressions in real-time through ad exchanges. The bidstream is the data generated during this auction process, containing information about the user, the ad space, and the bid itself.

  • What is bidstream intent data?

    Bidstream data is a common form of purchase intent data. It provides information about user behavior, preferences, and interests based on their online activities. Advertisers use this data to understand user intent and deliver more targeted and relevant ads, ultimately improving campaign effectiveness.

  • Who are the stakeholders that have interest in bidstream data?

    Stakeholders interested in bidstream data, include advertisers, ad agencies, ad tech platforms, publishers, and data providers. Advertisers use bidstream data to make informed bidding decisions; agencies optimize campaigns, ad tech platforms facilitate the auction process; publishers maximize revenue, and data providers contribute valuable insights for targeting and personalization.

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