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Buyers.json: The importance of transparency on the buy-side

by Danica Shultz

November 15, 2021

Up until recently, transparency standards have been focused on the sell-side of advertising, as advertisers and their agencies logically want to make sure that their investments are well spent. Both the Sellers.json and SupplyChain Object also enabled publishers to prevent bad actors from mimicking their inventory. However, with the recent introduction of Buyers.json and DemainChain Object standards by the IAB, the buy-side now has transparency regulations to live up to. These will contribute to counter a series of threads plaguing the entire industry: malicious demand-side actors.

Transparency on the buy-side is increasingly more important. Malvertising (an attack in which perpetrators inject malicious code into legitimate online advertising networks) is a problem in the advertising chain that can easily multiply and cause serious issues by tricking users into clicking on ads that are created to represent legitimate brands.

Sellers must address advertising transparency concerns to protect their audiences, engagement rates, and relationships with publishers. It is important for advertisers as well, not only since their revenues can also be at stake, but also because brands that are most often impersonated by demand-side malicious actors may end up being blocked by platforms or even publishers at some point. “Bad ads” that can result from malvertising are a driving factor for the adoption and usage of ad blockers. This of course negatively affects the entire advertising industry.

Transparency should be at the core of adtech providers’ business, and complying with the new IAB buyers.json standard, which extends the same transparency efforts on the sell-side to the buy-side, is a great place to start.

How buy-side transparency helps the advertising chain

Sell-side transparency initiatives, such as sellers.json and SupplyChain Object, have been in place since 2019 to combat fraud and promote transparency throughout the supply chain. This is done by identifying all players that have participated in the selling or reselling of the inventory. However, up until now, the adtech ecosystem was missing the mirroring practices for the buy-side which has allowed nefarious advertisers to hop from one DSP to another whenever their malvertising attacks were identified.

By implementing buy-side transparency initiatives, the industry can combat these malvertising attacks that affect publishers, SSPs, and advertisers. With buyers.json, DSPs can declare the advertisers they are hosting, and identify problematic buyers. DemandChain Object, which was built to be used with buyers.json, requires cooperation from other parties within the adtech ecosystem.

Ultimately, these initiatives help map all parties involved in the direct flow of payment for an impression and the creative running within it.

How the buyers.json standard works

Think of buyers.json as the counterpart to the sellers.json standard, which dictated a method for SSPs to publicly declare the parties selling inventory on their platforms. Following this logic, buyers.json is a way for DSPs to publicly declare all parties buying on their platform. This means the DSP has a publicly accessible file (hence: buyers.json) on their platform with this information.

By disclosing this information on DSPs, publishers and SSPs can more easily trace the sources of malvertising attacks and identify problematic buyers. These initiatives will allow publishers to more confidently monetize and monitor inventory spending while providing their audience with a positive user experience.

As these new initiatives begin to be adopted, and along with several other industry initiatives such as the “Malvertising Attack Matrix” led by Confiant for instance, we will be able to see a more transparent and ethical advertising ecosystem that benefits all players in the industry.