Specs for OpenRTB 3.0 & ads.cert, the ads.txt enhancement, open for comment

The IAB Technology Laboratory released for public comment this week tech specifications for OpenRTB 3.0. The real-time bidding (RTB) transactional specification for programmatic media buying and selling is also undergoing beta tests.

Specs for OpenRTB 3.0 & ads.cert, the ads.txt enhancement, open for comment

Rakuten Marketing CTO Neal Richter, who serves as co-chair of the Tech Lab’s OpenRTB Working Group, told MarTech Today in September that the OpenRTB protocol is evolving to handle new kinds of programmatic buying and selling, such as header bidding, content sales, product recommendations, connected TV and more. The protocol organizes entities into “objects”, which can be a website, a device, a piece of content or a bid request. Version 3.0 evolves the object model so that there are now separate layers for transactions and for description.

IAB Tech Lab also released for public comment tech specs for three tools that use OpenRTB: ads.cert, AdCOM (Advertising Common Object Model) and Ad Management API.

IAB says that the tools provide benefits for SSPs, DSPs, exchanges, buyers, sellers, publishers and advertisers in a variety of ways:

  • Ads.cert is a proposal to cryptographically sign bid requests to indicate the authenticity of premium inventory, such as video that is available through authorized sellers listed in ads.txt files. It’s a digital signature enhancement to ads.txt.
  • AdCOM is a new, modular approach to describe the advertising objects to be transacted in OpenRTB or other transactional specifications.
  • Ad Management API streamlines the creative approval process through standardization of API connections and supports greater transparency to inform decisions about ad quality.

The Lab describes OpenRTB 3.0 as “a major over haul of the real-time bidding framework”, noting that it improves security in the ad supply chain and provides more transparency for the bidding process.

“The combined use of the proposed OpenRTB 3.0 tech spec in conjunction with ads.cert AdCOM, and the Ad Management API will improve security and support new use cases in OpenRTB on both the buy and sell sides, ultimately facilitating a better consumer experience”, IAB Tech Lab said in a press release announcing the move.

Marketers welcome the protocol but worry about RTB latency

The marketers I spoke with lauded ads.txt, a seller authenticator OpenRTB solution released last year by IAB, as a boon to the industry and expressed hope for the success of this initiative. But some worried about issues with latency, or slow loading, that’s sometimes associated with header bidding and resources required for publishers to implement it.

“Ads.txt has been an incredible tool in ensuring only authorized sellers represent a media company’s inventory”, John Donahue, chief product officer at ad tech developer Sonobi, said. “… While we support the IAB’s ads.cert initiative, we are also conscious of the time burden it will have for publishers in a very short bid period. Programmatic remains a media investment channel with double digit growth. All efforts that ensure a zero-fraud environment where advertisers see the highest ROI of their ad spend is something we will stand behind.”

Donahue explained:

Latency drives down bid density and therefore revenue for publishers. In a world where a crypto function must be conducted, it is implicit you will drive increase latency. While ads.cert is great, ads.txt works and has NONE of the RTB latency issues.

Lauren Hendricks, senior vice president in global marketplace sales at Kargo, said the company is “thrilled to see that the bar for safety is only continuing to rise with the latest initiatives from the IAB. Ads.cert will further weed out the bad players, allowing those of us playing by the rules to succeed.”

She said she hoped that publishers would get up to speed quickly to ease implementation:

With Ads.txt, it was an entirely new concept that took many publishers a while to embrace and that cost all of us valuable time in the fight against invalid traffic. It’s important for all of us to be educated on the benefits of Ads.cert and the requirements needed to quickly implement it once Open RTB 3.0 is ready.
This is a powerful (and free!) solution for publishers and suppliers to use to clean up the marketplace by providing an additional layer of authenticity to give buyers reassurance and help rebuild trust.

The specifications are open for comments for 60 days, closing on September 24, 2018.

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