What Is A SafeFrame and How Does It Help Publishers?

Reading time: 4 minutes

iFrames are most commonly known for preventing a website’s components from interacting with foreign elements presented on the same page. They also allow publishers to position their ads so that they don’t become enmeshed with the rest of the website’s content, which would negatively impact the rest of the site page’s layout.

Of course, nothing in the ad tech[3] world is as simple as it seems, especially when it comes to iFrames within SafeFrames. Let’s just say that iFrames are the foundation for which SafeFrames exist, which makes them almost dependent on one another.

In this article, we’re going to talk about how iFrames and SafeFrames are related as well as how a SafeFrame is beneficial to publishers. 

Read on to learn more.

What Are iFrames?

Cutting to the chase, you can think of iFrames as little HTML tags that act as a container that embeds each ad on a web page. When an ad is placed within a container, the ad stays within those boundaries—or, frame. This prevents the ad from interacting with the other elements on that page. 

Ads can also be placed on web pages by using JavaScript tags, which was once a popular method. However, this tends to allow the ad to interrupt the functionality of the page’s other elements which provides for a terrible user experience.

While iFrames offer protection for ad content, they do have their limitations. For example, they tend to limit the ads’ capabilities, reducing their overall value. Additionally, iFrames don’t allow the ad sizes to be changed and they’re restrictive in terms of the usage of rich-media ads.

In the case of rich-media ads, it usually takes JavaScript tags to serve them while iFrames are in use. However, this also causes privacy and security challenges as JavaScript libraries will access sensitive user data[4], including their private email and even bank details.  

So, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB[1]) came up with the SafeFrame to overcome these challenges.

What Is a SafeFrame?

A SafeFrame is essentially an iFrame[5] that’s API-enabled and can open a unified path of communication between a web page’s content and its ads’ content. 

As mentioned earlier, the iFrame serves as the foundation, or in other words, it creates the container around each ad’s content. From there, the API capability of the SafeFrame enables rich-media interaction between the ad and the content on the web page.

This makes it easier for interactive ads to be served without disrupting the user experience as they read through the entire web page.  

What Are the Benefits of SafeFrame For Publishers?

Let’s talk about the benefits of SaeFrame for publishers:

They Offer Greater Control

In terms of more control, SafeFrames actually isolate the publisher[6]’s page and ad codes. This isolation, which prevents them from interacting with one another, is what gives publishers greater control over their page’s layout without having to worry about any interference.

Additionally, being that SafeFrames are API-enabled, it’s also able to assess and decide which information should be accessible to third-party vendors and advertisers.

They Offer Greater Efficiency

By adding SafeFrames to each of your ad units, you’re enabling rich interaction while preventing the ad code from disrupting the page’s function at the same time. This helps to improve your revenue potential while also mitigating operational costs as you don’t have to employ a team of developers to look into and fix functionality issues.

They Offer Better User Protection

SafeFrames have enabled ad slots that share information with any ad content that’s served to its API-enabled iFrames. Therefore, a publisher is able to choose what they want to share and what they don’t want to share in terms of user data.

With SafeFrames, publishers can protect their users’ sensitive information including addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, bank information, and much more.

It should also be noted that while SafeFrames come with a handful of benefits for publishers, there are also a few downsides. For example, when you display an ad within a SaFrame, ad-tech vendors won’t be able to see what’s happening on a webpage. This makes viewability[2] a rather significant challenge as vendors can’t measure the ad viewability score.

How to Enable SafeFrame in Google Ad Managers

When it comes to enabling SafeFrames in Google Ad Manager, you’ll want it to be your default mechanism for serving ads. Therefore, the ad unit[7] must have a Google Publisher Tag type enabled at all times.

Keep in mind, the ad server also offers four types of ad creatives to choose from:

  • Custom
  • Third-party
  • System-defined templates
  • User-defined templates

If you choose the custom or third-party option, you won’t have to make any changes within the ad creatives as they’re both always on by default. However, if you don’t want to use SafeFrames for whatever reason, you would have to disable both creatives for each ad unit. 

For the system- and user-defined templates, you would have to manually enable them or disable them each time.  

When you’re enabling SafeFrames, it’s also important to ensure that the advertisers share the same ad creatives with SafeFrame. Otherwise, they may not be compatible. You’ll also want to keep in mind that AdX turns on SafeFrames by default, so if you’re working with demand from Google’s Ad Exchange, you won’t be able to access said demand without enabling SafeFrames first. 

How to Check if an Ad Slot is SafeFrame-Enabled

Not sure if SafeFrames are enabled or not? All you have to do is check on the Google Publisher Console

Just open up the console and look for the iFrame type in your ad slots. If there are ad slots that don’t have any type of iFrame, the status will be marked as none.

As a publisher, your primary objective is to provide the best user experience possible. However, it’s just as important to know how your users are interacting with the ads on your web page while ensuring their personal data is safe and secure. This is precisely why you should be implementing SafeFrames if you haven’t started already.

Terms
1. Interactive Advertising Bureau [IAB] ( IAB ) The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media companies, brands, and the technology firms responsible for selling, delivering and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. IAB is committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., the trade association advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. Founded in 1996, IAB is headquartered in New York City.
2. viewability. Viewability relates to the amount of time a user saw an ad.
3. ad tech. Advertising Technology, or ad tech, refers to software built for the advertising industry that helps improve media effectiveness and increase operational efficiencies. Ad tech can refer to a number of platforms, including demand-side platforms (DSPs), data management platforms (DMPs), supply-side platforms (SSPs) and ad exchanges.
4. user data. Information about users, either behavioural or demographic. Please note that user data is generally associated with a UUID rather than any personally identifiable information. User data is distinct from contextual data. Often used interchangeably with segment data and audience data.
5. iFrame. An iframe (short for inline frame) is an HTML element that allows an external webpage to be embedded in an HTML document. Unlike traditional frames, which were used to create the structure of a webpage, iframes can be inserted anywhere within a webpage layout.

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