IAB Tech Lab Standards & Specifications

Posted by Jonas Jaanimagi On September 06, 2023 Tech Lab, Technical Standards and Specs

Established in 2014, the IAB Technology Laboratory (Tech Lab) is a non-profit consortium that engages a member community globally to develop and mange foundational technologies and standards that enable growth and trust in the digital media ecosystem.

Below is a summary of all the key standards and specifications released and managed by the IAB Tech Lab:

Ad Product Taxonomy: establishes for the first time a standardised nomenclature for describing the product or service being advertised within a creative unit. It aims to provide publishers with stronger signals to, 1) control the types of ads that are delivered via automated channels and, 2) measure the performance of those ads against internal KPIs.

ads.cert: a set of open standard cryptographic security protocols developed by the IAB Tech Lab to help secure the programmatic advertising ecosystem, particularly for CTV. It provides a method for formally designating one ad ecosystem participant’s business identity to other participants using a standard method for distributing public keys. Individual authentication protocols that leverage this public key distribution foundation for adding security to a specific advertising use case. As a result, ads.cert is a valuable tool for combating ad fraud and ensuring the integrity of the programmatic advertising ecosystem. By adopting ads.cert, publishers and ad tech platforms can help to protect their businesses from fraud and ensure that their advertisers are only getting genuine impressions.

ads.txt and app-ads.txt: ads.txt stands for Authorised Digital Sellers and is a simple, flexible and secure method that publishers and authorised partners can use to publicly declare the companies they have sanctioned to sell their digital inventory. Meanwhile app-ads.txt is an extension to ads.txt and is suitable for advertising within in-app environments.

Audience Taxonomy: is a common nomenclature for audience segment names to improve comparability of data across different providers. It is a key element in IAB Tech Lab’s Data Label standard, which facilitates consistent labelling of audience data by first-party and third-party sources. The Audience Taxonomy also provides a mechanism to make segmentation approaches much clearer (categorically) by introducing Tier 1 level labelling that designates whether the segment describes attributions that are demographic, interest-based, or purchase-intent based.

Buyers.json: is a mechanism for advertising systems and other intermediaries between payor and publisher to publicly declare the buyers that they represent. Armed with this information, publishers and SSPs can more easily identify the sources of malvertising attacks, identify problematic buyers across multiple demand sources, and take appropriate action to protect themselves and consumers.

Content Taxonomy: provides a common language that can be used when describing content. Typical uses of the content taxonomy are for contextual targeting and brand safety. The latest version (3.0) includes an improved set of categories and vectors to support buying on CTV/Video, Podcasts, Games, and Mobile Apps. It also includes updates to better describe and monetise News content.

Data Label: this standard leverages the IAB Tech Lab’s Data Transparency Standards to provide every marketer, agency, data provider and publisher a clear view of the syndicated audience segments via a standardised set of disclosures. These disclosure requirements are intended to establish a baseline level of transparency for data buyers about aspects of data collection, processing, and modelling that inform data quality and applicability, regardless of buyer use case. These standards are not intended to provide a qualitative grade as to the efficacy (“this segment performs well”) or quality (“this segment is highly accurate) of the data in question, but simply surface baseline information that buyers can use to make informed decisions regardless of their data use case to improve transparency and accountability. Data Label can also help to protect consumers’ privacy by ensuring that their data is collected and used in a transparent and ethical manner.

DemandChain Object: enables sellers to see all parties involved in buying the creative embedded in a given programmatic bid response.

Global Privacy Platform: the Global Privacy Platform (GPP) is part of a portfolio of solutions developed by IAB Tech Lab, as part of the Project Rearc initiative, to help the industry solve for the challenges that come with the need to address differing and evolving privacy regulations worldwide. The GPP is a protocol designed to streamline the transmission of privacy, consent, and consumer choice signals from sites and apps to ad tech providers; it enables advertisers, publishers and technology vendors in the digital advertising industry to adapt to regulatory demands across markets.

Open Measurement SDK: this is a software development kit that allows publishers and app developers to easily integrate third-party measurement providers into their websites and apps. The OM SDK provides a common set of APIs for measurement providers to access data about ad impressions, clicks, and conversions. This makes it easier for publishers and app developers to work with multiple measurement providers without having to integrate each one separately. The OM SDK is also designed to improve the accuracy and reliability of measurement data. By standardising the way that data is collected and transmitted, the OM SDK helps to reduce the risk of errors and inconsistencies. This is important for publishers and app developers who need to ensure that their measurement data is accurate and reliable. The OM SDK is a free and open source project that is maintained by the IAB Tech Lab. It is available for a variety of platforms, including iOS, Android, web, and CTV.

Open Private Join and Activation: OPJA is a first in the series of Data Clean Room interoperability standards that describes the specification for activating matching audiences between two parties. It describes the process and privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) deployment for implementing a matching operation between two parties and the supporting mechanisms to use the output of the operation to activate matched audience for advertising.

OpenRTB: is a set of technical standards & protocols that define how real-time bidding (RTB) should work. OpenRTB is designed to make programmatic advertising more transparent, efficient, and secure.

Seller Defined Audiences: a set of specifications that allow publishers to monetise their audiences without needing to use a unique ID or reveal a user’s identity to advertisers. The IAB Tech Lab developed the specification to provide a solution to the diminishing availability of third-party cookies, while at the same time offer a privacy-focused alternative to ID-based identity solutions, such as third-party cookies and universal ID solutions. These are designed to work with existing media-buying processes and standards, such as the OpenRTB protocol and Prebid.

sellers.json: hosted by SSPs and exchanges this file identifies sellers listed on the ads.txt file or app-ads.txt and supplies additional info such as the account numbers, seller IDs and associated publisher identities that operate via that seller. Sellers.json functions a bit like the SSP version of a publisher ads.txt file.

SHARC: stands for ‘Secure HTML Ad Rich-Media Container’ and is a standardised container API that enables interactive ads to be served across mobile-app, web, and other HTML-enabled environments, in a secure iframe which prevents the ad from being able to access sensitive page and user data. For the sell side, SHARC enables publishers to offer rich ad functionality for brands, while protecting their properties from the risk of data leakage and functional errors that can be introduced from external sources. For the buy side, the standardised ad container can be served across any SHARC-enabled platform or medium, reducing the number of creatives that need to be developed for a cross-platform campaign. It simplifies ad development and in turn reduces the ad load on ad servers, which helps to reduce costs and makes it easier to expand campaigns to new platforms and channels.

SupplyChain Object: enables buyers (via their DSP partners) to see all the parties involved and that were paid as part of an impression opportunity from beginning to end throughout the supply chain. It works in conjunction with sellers.json to provide an additional layer of transparency into any multiple resellers, enabling buyers retrospectively review any entities involved in the selling or reselling of any bid requests. Acting as a record for every impression, Supply Chain Object empowers buyers to check for any fraudulent sellers/resellers and additionally know the final reseller in the chain.

VAST: is a Video Ad Serving Template for structuring ad tags that serve ads to video players. It is fast-evolving and the most widely used format for serving video ads online, and is supported by all major video players. VAST defines a set of ad units that can be used to deliver video ads, including linear ads, non-linear ads, and companion ads. It also specifies how ad servers and video players should communicate with each other, including how to request ads, deliver ads, and track ad impressions and clicks.

Jonas Jaanimagi