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Fostering Programmatic Transparency Through Buyers.json and DemandChain Object Adoption

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By Eric Bozinny, Senior Director, Marketplace Quality
June 18, 2024

In the ever-evolving world of digital advertising, transparency isn’t just a buzzword—it’s the bedrock of trust and efficiency. We are committed to fostering transparency throughout the programmatic ecosystem and are excited to announce PubMatic is an early adopter of the IAB Tech Lab’s standards buyers.json and DemandChain Object (DCO). Let’s delve into how these powerful solutions are reshaping the landscape.

Supply Side Transparency: Success Story and a Win for Buyers

Picture this: thousands of companies navigating the intricate web of programmatic advertising. Their common goal? Full transparency for every ad request and bid response. The journey began in 2017 with the IAB Tech Lab’s groundbreaking ads.txt specification. Sellers.json, and the SupplyChain Object (SCO) spec followed suit in 2020. Together, they form a three-legged stool—a sturdy foundation for supply-side transparency.

What does this mean for media buyers? It is game-changing. These specs empower you with answers to questions that were once elusive:

  • Authentication: Does the publisher authorize intermediaries to sell the inventory you desire?
  • Path Transparency: How direct is the route to your desired inventory?
  • Intermediary Insights: Has the publisher greenlit their participation in the sale for every link in the supply chain?

Gone are the days of limited data points. Now, programmatic media buyers wield the power of knowledge.

Now It’s the Buyer’s Turn

While supply-side transparency soared, the buy side faced its own unique challenges. Publishers knew their SSPs, but visibility waned beyond the DSP veil. Enter buyers.json and DemandChain Object (DCO), unsung heroes introduced by the IAB Tech Lab in 2021. These specs flip the script, flowing from buyers to sellers.

And PubMatic is all in, embedding the DCO in bid responses from DSPs and unveiling a publicly accessible buyers.json file alongside our trusted sellers.json. Imagine a world where sellers and publishers can peer behind the curtain:

  • Identifying Allies: Sellers see which intermediaries—DSPs, ad agencies, and resellers—bid on their inventory.
  • Reducing Malvertising: Bad actors beware! We’re empowering publishers with the intel to thwart their mischief.
  • Algorithm Refinement: Publishers fine-tune their algorithms, customizing the experience for specific buyers based on industry nuances.

Paul Bannister, Chief Strategy Officer at Raptive, has supported the wider adoption of buyers.json and DCO since the specification was created: “DCO and Buyers.json lighting up the buy side of programmatic will bring many benefits to our publishers, and I’m happy to see PubMatic being the first major omnichannel SSP publishing a buyers.json file.”

The Road Ahead: Challenges and Triumphs

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room. Unlike sellers.json and SCO, which sprinted to near-universal adoption, buyers.json and DCO face headwinds. Why? Money flows one way—from buyers to sellers. DSPs, while intrigued, juggle priorities. And confidentiality concerns are valid as advertisers fear exposure to a buyers.json spotlight.

We understand the reluctance, and for this reason, PubMatic will support passing all information typically split between buyers.json and DCO in the DemandChain Object. Here’s an example: A DSP has agency buyers (which would be buyer type INTERMEDIARY in a buyers.json entry) but doesn’t want their name listed on that file. The DSP passes all the critical data in the DCO (buyer name, buyer domain, and buyer ID) so only those parties to a bid response (e.g., SSP, Ad Network, Publisher, Developer) for a specific ad placement will see all the details.

It should be noted that DCO is not currently fully supported for some integration types, including Prebid and tag-based. However, we are hoping to work with the industry to support DCO across all programmatic.

While this approach is different from the relationship between sellers.json and SCO (where only Seller ID is passed in SCO, with a look up against a sellers.json file providing name, domain, and seller type), it still provides the information needed by the parties to a transaction. Granted, they will need to build their own bespoke tables internally to track all the info coming from the bid stream via DCO, and better for sellers to receive valuable information in this manner than continue to see adoption stall due to the confidentiality challenges referenced above.

But transparency is a shared responsibility. As PubMatic pioneers this path, we invite DSPs, agencies, and advertisers to join the cause. Let’s forge a healthier, more accountable programmatic advertising realm where trust reigns supreme. Transparency isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the heartbeat of progress. Reach out to your PubMatic account representative to find out more.