Enabling a flexible & verified CTV ads eco-system through OpenRTB 2.6 & ads.cert

On January 24, 2022 ad tech matters, ctv, fraud, ortb, Programmatic

Based upon our most recent expenditure reports, CTV continues to be the advertising hero product here in Australia. Brands are following the engaged audiences increasingly consuming on-demand, high-quality long-form digital video content on their large TV screens in ‘lean-back’ environments. The attraction of this product type is uniquely appealing to the dichotomous wallets of both traditional TV buyers and the digital die-hards looking to reach large engaged audiences that openly accept the value exchange of advertising in return for free quality content on bigger screens, combined with the known benefits of programmatic digital in terms of audience targeting, frequency management, dynamic creative and data-driven measurement.

Two key areas that require ongoing nurturing through this phase of growth is the consumer experience and protecting brands from any potential risk of exposure to fraud.

Consumer experience – Ensuring that brands have the full suite of controls and flexibility in delivering a quality of advertising experiencing on bigger screens via CTV that matches linear is critical. Both for frequency management but also to ensure that brands can utilise all the variations of ad pods with multiple ad requests delivered in one bid request across a collection of ad slots, similar to those delivered during a linear TV viewing experience or on radio. Hence ORTB 2.6

Fraud – Currently the majority of Australian CTV buys remain pre-packaged products and audiences delivered directly to buyers (depending upon their requirements) by premium partners and vendors without having to expose brands to any of the risks of open-market programmatic bidding environments. It’s simple, highly brand-safe, competently productised, and very well-tailored to marketers’ requirements. However, as programmatic CTV demand continues to grow – we have to expect that these CTV/OTT products will become progressively democratised as buyers inevitably seek to access this supply as they see fit. The industry is obligated to ensure that we can safely enable these capabilities across the full range of a marketer’s appetite for risk. Hence ads.cert

OpenRTB 2.6

IAB Tech Lab’s Programmatic Supply Chain Working Group are regularly reviewing and working on updating the protocols of programmatic advertising, and the latest version has some significant improvements for everyone – in particular for CTV ads.

The key features of the new protocols dramatically improves and enhances programmatic buying of CTV inventory by comprehensively enabling structured, dynamic and hybrid ad pods. As a result, media owners will now be enabled to better monetise their CTV commercial breaks by allowing their advertising clients to:

  • place multiple ad requests within one bid request.
  • have greater flexibility in the number of ad slots and their length.
  • have access to a much more comprehensive range of CTV inventory.

The addition of ad pods in CTV brings ad buying in line with the way traditional TV advertising is bought and sold, with the added benefit of flexibility enabled by digital real-time programmatic ad bidding – giving buyers the best of both worlds. A summary of the three types of ad pods are below.

Structured Pod: The seller offers a fully defined pod structure; the number of ad slots, their slot in the ad pod, and duration is predefined and static.

Dynamic Pod: The seller offers a pod structure where the number of ads and the duration of each ad in the break is indeterminate, but the total duration and maximum number of ads are constrained. In other words, the total duration of the pod is known, but the number and duration of the individual ads within the break may not be defined ahead of time. This allows bidders more flexibility to optimise their selection of ads across the demand on their platform.

Hybrid Pod: The seller offers a pod structure containing both structured and dynamic components. In other words, the ad pod is composed of some combination of ad slots with predetermined durations, and ad slots constrained by a total duration and also a maximum number of ads.

We are excited by how these standards can support more innovative and commercial opportunities for both buyers and sellers through these improved capabilities in CTV advertising, as well as providing additional layers of safety and transparency. Some of the other benefits also included within OpenRTB 2.6 for programmatic buying are:

  • Faster and more frequent changes in lists and enumerations included in OpenRTB through the use of AdCOM. Earlier versions of OpenRTB required a full upgrade of version to facilitate changes, the use of AdCOM means that lists can be updated and implemented independently.
  • Improved support for contextual buying and selling by making it easier to signal the various taxonomies managed by IAB Tech Lab within the bid request.
  • The introduction of Network and Channel objects to support CTV inventory descriptions

To fully review the new protocols click here, and to read a related article from Jill Wittkopp at IAB Tech Lab click here

ads.cert 2.0

The most recent working group at IAB Tech Lab is the Cryptographic Security Foundations Working Group. This group has just upgraded the ads.cert framework to enable full authentication through cryptography of the user, the device, the publisher, any ad tech intermediaries, and the buyer so as to fully guarantee the integrity of a transaction.

These standards are initially focused on SSAI (Server-Side Ad Insertion) transactions specifically as recent security research has highlighted schemes where parties have attempted to impersonate SSAI platforms. These schemes are challenging to identify, as traffic appears to originate from the same cloud platforms and hosting providers that service genuine SSAI businesses.

Due to the multi-pronged set of requirements, there are several protocols wrapped into this release, so we’ll break them down one-by-one for you:

Call Signs protocol – allows a company to accurately identify other companies involved in a specific ad transaction, thanks to Domain Name System records.

Authenticated Connections protocol – gives both advertisers and publishers confidence in the authenticity of the origin of any requests, thereby preventing interference in server-to-server requests.

Authenticated Delivery protocol – authenticates the data in a given bid request, allowing buyers and sellers to see if the price or location of a given bid has been tampered with.

Authenticated Devices protocol – attests to the legitimacy of the device on which a given ad is being served.

IAB Tech Lab has specifically recommended that all SSAI providers immediately implement the Authenticated Connections protocol in particular – and advises both buyers and sellers to start insisting upon this protocol for any CTV transactions as soon as it becomes available to them.

For the full set of specifications for ads.cert 2.0 simply click here

Some links for further reading:

IAB Australia’s One Stop Shop on Connected TV

Welcome Back OpenRTB 2.x (Jill Wittkopp, Senior Director, Programmatic & Software Products, IAB Tech Lab)

Securing the CTV Supply Chain (Rob Hazan, Senior Director of Product, Index Exchange)

IAB Tech Lab’s Connected TV Guide, with Highlights for SSAI

IAB Tech Lab’s ads.cert standards

IAB Tech Lab’s OpenRTB 2.6 standards