All you need to know about Sellers.json and the OpenRTB SupplyChain Object
1. Fraud in the ad tech ecosystem
Over the past few years, a host of quality issues have risen to the surface in the ad tech industry. Actors on both the buy and sell-side have acknowledged the issues and taken steps to reduce fraud and improve inventory and ad quality. However, Juniper Research still estimated the industry would take a $44 billion hit due to ad fraud in 2022.
It’s clear that transparency, strict processes and adherence to IAB standards will all play major roles in the continued effort to rid the industry of bad actors. One of the first major IAB initiatives in this vein was ads.txt, the standard created to crack down on domain spoofing by helping the sell-side reassure advertisers of inventory quality and authorship. Ads.txt allows publishers and resellers to publicly announce which companies are authorized to sell their digital inventory.
Adoption shot up last year — it increased 5.4x over the first half of 2018, rising from about 90,000 domains to about 500,000 — and by the end of the year, according to Pixalate, almost 80% of the 1,000 most-trafficked websites had uploaded the ads.txt file to their website.
To go further, the IAB Tech Lab has recently introduced two new complementary market initiatives in the continuity of ads.txt: Sellers.json and the OpenRTB SupplyChain Object. Both come as a package and are designed to give ad buyers more confidence in the multiple vendors involved in the reselling of an impression throughout the digital ad supply chain — not just the first reseller.
2. How do they work?
Sellers.json is, in a sense, like the SSP / ad network version of a publisher’s ads.txt file. Like ads.txt, it is hosted at the root of a corporate domain. The file publicly lists all the account numbers and associated publisher identities that operate on an advertising system. Sellers.json allows the buyer to confirm the relationship between the publisher and the SSP by matching the information declared in the ads.txt file and the supply chain object with the information that appears in the Sellers.json file.
2.2 The OpenRTB SupplyChain Object
The OpenRTB SupplyChain Object is a record of what has happened to an impression after an ad call. This allows buyers to see which sellers and resellers have been involved in each bid request. It makes up a set of “nodes,” each representing a vendor that has participated in the selling or reselling of a given bid request. It will also identify the vendor who was the final reseller in the chain. Buyers can match them to seller IDs given by publishers in ads.txt files and decide whether or not they’re bona fide partners.
Advertisers and agencies can use the combined information generated from these two standards to understand who is reselling whose inventory, empowering them to be more confident and comfortable in their purchases.
3. Why both are important?
It’s important to note that ads.txt is always useful in itself to prevent domain spoofing and unauthorized reselling, but Sellers.json and the OpenRTB SupplyChain object provide additional details at the SSP and transaction level.
These new standards will become indispensable for all actors in the programmatic ecosystem. This will allow the buy-side to have a visibility on who is involved in the transactions, creating a solid white list that will give them a confidence boost while weeding out the bad actors.
If we look at the other side, that of the publishers, we see the standards will allow them to check for themselves which shared service providers claim to have a relationship with them.
And lastly, on the SSP side, we see that the OpenRTB SupplyChain object and Sellers.json guarantee end-to-end transparency and are a reliable and comprehensive step towards stricter standards and greater transparency. Some DSPs have already indicated that they will soon begin to stop buying inventory from partners that have not implemented the Sellers.json and the SupplyChain object specifications. Not participating could result in further erosion of trust and loss of revenues.
4. What do publishers have to do?
As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the goal is to identify all the intermediaries that participated in the selling of a bid request. The IAB Tech Lab is still working on the specifications, so the next steps will be available in the coming weeks and you will have some updates to make in order to be compliant. We’ll keep you posted.
5. Want to learn more about Sellers.json and OpenRTB SupplyChain Object?
6. Quality at Smart
At Smart, we are strongly supporting all market initiatives dedicated to creating an ecosystem that is both transparent and safe. Smart fully supports the IAB in its efforts to improve quality through the Sellers.json and OpenRTB SupplyChain Object initiatives and are encouraging all publishers to avoid revenue losses by jumping on board early.