In an effort to improve transparency in the programmatic mobile in-app advertising ecosystem, the IAB has released three key tech standards since 2019: app-ads.txt, sellers.json and the OpenRTB supply chain object (also sometimes known as Schain object). For all demand-side platforms (DSPs), it’s important to understand what each tech standard entails and how it benefits their operations:
- App-ads.txt: Ads.txt (Authorized Digital Sellers) is a solution that helps buyers identify authorized sellers in the programmatic world. With app-ads.txt, the version of ads.txt designed specifically for the mobile app community, the app publisher/developer creates a repository of authorized sellers, which is listed in a .txt file hosted in the root domain of their developer website. This file can then be accessed by buyers, most commonly using a crawler.
- Sellers.json: In short, sellers.json is a file that enables the players of the ecosystem to map back the request to the entities behind that specific opportunity, including the final publisher. Essentially, it’s a file that maintains the mapping between the identifiers and the related entity name along with the relationship type and some additional information.
- Schain object: The OpenRTB SupplyChain object is designed to map out who is involved in every programmatic transaction, using set IDs to highlight the various intermediaries (along with some extra metadata) involved in placing a brand’s ad onto a particular publication.
Schain object and sellers.json are designed to work hand-in-hand with one another. Sellers.json is basically the map key, helping to decode the various identifiers used by the OpenRTB SupplyChain object.
How to Use These IAB Tech Standards
As the buyer in most programmatic transactions, DSPs have a critical role to play in ensuring that the rest of the programmatic advertising ecosystem is using these IAB Tech Lab standards. DSPs should make sure that they only work with ad networks, exchanges and supply-side platforms (SSPs) that have both a sellers.json file and a related Schain object. InMobi’s sellers.json file can be found at inmobi.com/sellers.json. In addition, the DSP should make sure that their chosen partners are listed properly on the end publisher’s app-ads.txt file.
It’s also critical to note that compliance here is not a one-time action. DSPs should make sure that the rest of the ecosystem is constantly updating their sellers.json or app-ads.txt files when necessary and when appropriate. This means that DSPs should have systems and practices in place to constantly review these files to make sure they are up to date and that nothing fishy is present on them.
Why Bother With These IAB Tech Standards?
With all three, the end goal is greater transparency.
This added transparency brings the subsequent benefit of helping to stamp out ad fraud. When both the buy side and the sell side have a clear understanding of who should be and was involved in a transaction, fraudsters have less room to hide in the margins.
As InMobi’s Sergio Serra has noted, "It's crucial that everyone in the space evangelize the importance of supply path transparency in the spirit of fair and more reliable advertising and programmatic trading.”