Improving supply chain transparency with sellers.json and SupplyChain object

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The march towards creating a more transparent digital advertising supply chain continues. In April, the IAB Tech Lab introduced two new technical specs for public comment, sellers.json (PDF) and the OpenRTB SupplyChain object. Both specs build on the momentum generated by ads.txt and app-ads.txt to further transparency, brand safety, and trust in the digital advertising ecosystem.

Ads.txt and its limitations

Ads.txt has been a success, with nearly 90% of spend on the SSP and Video SSP today is for authorized supply.1 Adoption has helped reduce domain spoofing and unauthorized reselling by encouraging an industry-wide shift to buying authorized inventory. However, while ads.txt helps to identify which SSPs and networks are authorized to sell a publisher’s inventory, and the nature of their relationship (direct or reseller), it doesn’t do so at the bid request level. Sellers.json and SupplyChain object aim to take this further by giving buyers greater end-to-end visibility into the supply chain, at the bid request level.

Identifying seller relationships with sellers.json

Sellers.json is often described as the SSP’s version of the ads.txt file. It’s a standalone file that identifies the seller ID, the publisher name, domain, and directness of the relationship. 

For example, an SSP’s seller.json file may include the following information about a publisher:
"seller_id": "20000000",
 "name": "Yahoo",
 "domain": "yahoo.com",
 "directness": "DIRECT",
 "comment": "NorthAmerica O&O inventory"

The sellers.json seller_id value should match the seller_id that appears in the publisher’s ads.txt file, and should also appear in the publisher.id property in the OpenRTB bid request. This information allows DSPs and buyers to more consistently identify the final seller of a bid request. 

What is the OpenRTB SupplyChain object

SupplyChain object enables DSPs to see all parties who are selling or reselling a bid request. It works in tandem with sellers.json to identify the links in the supply chain. SupplyChain object identifies a few key attributes:

  • Whether a bid request contains all the nodes leading back to the source of the inventory
  • A particular bid request’s “node” or order in the chain (e.g., a direct seller would only list one node; a reseller would list multiple nodes)
  • The name of the SSP or exchange
  • The identifier for the publisher. This value should match the seller_id value in the sellers.json and ads.txt files and the publisher.id in the bid request
  • The SupplyChain object extension is compatible with OpenRTB 2.5 or OpenRTB 3.0.

What is Verizon Media doing?

We are finalizing our plans files for the SSP and Video SSP. We are targeting Q3 for posting the sellers.json file on our supply platform domains. We are also working on adding support for SupplyChain object in both the SSP and Video SSP OpenRTB integrations for the latter half of 2019. 

Are publishers required to take any action?

For the most part no. Both sellers.json and SupplyChain object are SSP deliverables.

What actions should buyers take?

Buyers should continue to rely on ads.txt and app-ads.txt channels and cut out misrepresented inventory by targeting authorized sellers. When finalized, buyers can review SupplyChain object, and verify identifiers within sellers.json files. This supply path transparency should support more confident programmatic spend. Our open demand teams will reach out to our bidder and buyer partners to provide additional support once the releases are imminent.

Want to become a publisher with Verizon Media? Contact us today.

1Source: Verizon Media data, June 14, 2019