OpenRTB Update: Sept. 2019

Posted by Christian Manie On September 08, 2019 Research & Resources

An update on OpenRTB and the latest IAB Tech Lab standards

Over the last 18 months IAB Tech Lab have been working on various technical solutions and standards to improve the transparency, security and operational efficiency of programmatic trading.

The RTB (real-time bidding) protocols related to the automated buying and selling of ads are released, managed and overseen by IAB Tech Lab – and are regularly reviewed, improved upon and updated. Currently these OpenRTB standards are on version 2.5, with version 3.0 now also released for adoption.

We can expect full adoption of v3.0 sometime next year, with subsequent significant improvements in both efficiency and transparency as a result.

Advertisers and agencies can use the combined data generated via these standards to understand what they’re buying and empower them to be more confident and comfortable in their purchases. These specifications play complementary roles and extend transparency for buyers throughout the entire supply chain, including SSPs and ad exchanges.

“MediaMath is excited to incorporate additions to OpenRTB that make our ecosystem more accountable and transparent.” David Benjafield, Senior Director, Engagement ANZ, MediaMath

For the future, and through the adoption of the next round of protocols (v3, adoption expected in 2020), the authentication process standard will be completed and is called ads.cert. This will be a significant step forwards as it works by using cryptographically signed bid requests to offer authenticated paths back to the inventory source. This will guarantee that the bid requests are certified and haven’t been modified, thereby dramatically reducing the risk of fraudulent ads appearing in programmatic buying.

In order to ensure that any industry standards can work effectively, widescale adoption is necessary, and persistent ongoing awareness, support and education of all sides of the advertising ecosystem (media owners, platforms, ad-tech, agencies and advertisers) is essential. It has to be a collaborative effort.

“PubMatic is committed to providing a transparent, high-quality ecosystem for our clients. As these new quality initiatives are introduced we believe it is essential for buyers, vendors, and publishers alike stay informed, updated, and adopt the latest standards.” Cam Dinnie, Director, Customer Success APAC, PubMatic

For more information on these more recent standards, how they currently work together and some info on those to come, please see the summaries below:

  • 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. App-ads.txt is an extension to ads.txt and is suitable for advertising within in-app environments on mobile and OTT (over-the-top), or any other app inventory.
  • sellers.json: identifies the seller listed on the ads.txt file or app-ads.txt and supplies additional info such as the account numbers and associated publisher identities that operate via that seller.
  • SupplyChain Object: enables buyers to see all the parties involved and that were paid as part of an impression opportunity from beginning to end. 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.
  • AdCOM: is the Advertising Common Object Model that describes the media objects that are bought and sold across any transactional protocol. The Common Object Model for Ads describes the ad, the creative, and the media channels that are traded over OpenRTB transactions.
  • OpenData (due for final release in Q4 2019): is a standardised and consistent language for vendors, advertisers and publishers to utilise in all campaign reporting. This will provide publishers, agencies, and data management vendors with a common language and mapping tool intended to improve workflow in day-to-day campaign analytics processes.
  • Ads.cert (due for release in 2020): utilises cryptographically signed bid requests to authenticate the exchanges between buyer and seller at each stage of digital ad supply chain, ensuring that no information can be modified or altered. This will fully authenticate ad inventory in real-time to eradicate any risk of ad-fraud in programmatic buying.

IAB Australia seeks to achieve local adoption through awareness, education and engagement efforts throughout the cycle of these standards, both pre and post their general release to the industry – including giving access to beta versions and co-ordinating local feedback to IAB Tech Lab within any of the public commentary periods available.

Please see below for a visual of these standards and a useful table summarising what they do.

For more information on these standards or anything else related to OpenRTB please email Jonas Jaanimagi at

IAB Tech LAB Standard Purpose
 ads.txt Enables publishers to declare the authorised sellers of their inventory in web-based environments.
 app-ads.txt Enables publishers to declare the authorised sellers of their inventory in app-based environments.
 Sellers.json Identifies sellers listed on the ads.txt or app-ads.txt file and supplies additional info such as the account numbers and associated publisher identities that operate via that seller.
Enables buyers to see all the parties involved and that were paid as part of any impression opportunity from beginning to end.
 AdCOM Provides a reusable object model to describe the ad, creative and media channels in any OpenRTB transactions.
 *OpenData Consistent standards for nomenclature to increase clarity of reporting and support agency and publisher needs.
 **Ads.cert Cryptographically signed bid requests indicating the authenticity of premium inventory made available via authorized sellers listed on a publisher’s ads.txt or app-ads.txt files.
Open Measurement Provides advertisers with common code and libraries for facilitating third-party access to measurement data.

due to be released in Q4 2019
** due to be released in 2020 

Open RTB Diagram

OpenRTB standards:

Guide on ads.txt and app-ads.txt:


OpenRTB SupplyChain Object: 

OpenData 1.0:

Open Measurement SDK:

Christian Manie