What is Buyers.json?

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Buyers.json represents a simple, but incredibly important mechanism that allows demand-side advertising platforms to disclose the identities of buyers publicly. From a security standpoint, this is crucial because it allows for immediate identification of any threats once they appear. 

It is intended to be the mirror mechanism of Sellers.json, which supply-side platforms currently use to disclose the identities of their represented publishers. If it became an industry standard, buyers.json would simply bring that level of transparency[4] to both sides of the transaction. 

One of the main reasons for the creation and implementation of buyers.json is the principle of fairness and parity; simply put, both sides of this type of transaction should have the same level of mutual transparency. 

However, perhaps more importantly — this programmatic standard would increase the industry-wide level of protection from malvertising. Sellers.json makes major strides into sell-side transparency — and doing the same for the other side is extremely important. Being able to disclose buyer identities would deal with two big problems in the programmatic advertising[1] industry: 

  • Identifying threat actors such as malvertisers on DSPs
  • Blocking previously identified threats found on DSPs

As of now, IAB[2] Tech Lab is working on a potential buyers.json solution, providing a desirable solution in a simple format that is easily readable by humans. In other words, this proposed format would allow anyone who has access to a web browser to interpret the required file. There would be no complex array of APIs, nor would the publishers necessarily need to have an established relationship with the buyers. 

Buyers.json would allow the necessary transparency of information that is absolutely needed for the efficient and secure functioning of programmatic advertising. 

Buyers.json works alongside another transparency standard, DemandChain Object which enables sellers to see all parties involved in buying the creative[6] embedded in a given bid response. According to the IAB Tech Lab, “buyers.json and DemandChain Object can be considered the mirror images of sellers.json and SupplyChain Object, with the goal of providing similar level of transparency to publishers, just as sellers.json &amp[3]; SCO had provided transparency to buyers.”

Why is Buyers.json Important?

In the past decade, digital advertising has become more and more reliant on the automated methods and practices of programmatic advertising. However, apart from the many advantages and the increased efficiency that the programmatic approach has brought to advertising, two threats plague programmatic advertising — malvertising and ad fraud[7].

While the industry has recently managed to curtail ad fraud via strong initiatives like the SupplyChain Object and sellers.json, it has not managed to deal with malvertising at an equally adequate level. Considering the victims of these issues were the website visitors, their issues were largely overshadowed by seller fraud. 

After all, website users don’t exactly get to participate in industry gatherings and discussions. There are no website user advocacy groups that can throw their weight around with huge advertising budgets. 

Disruptive advertisements and malvertising have long marred the overall ad experience on the internet. This is the main reason most people resort to ad blockers, which are measures that hurt the entire industry. 

We could argue that the main reasons why digital advertising is so attractive to advertisers are:

  • Immense reach
  • Advanced data analytics 
  • Precise targeting[8]

However, these are the exact factors that also make this ecosystem susceptible to malvertisers. And the only way to truly put a stop to negative ad experiences on the internet is buyer identification. Indeed, malvertisers need to be prevented from exploiting the fragmented structure of the programmatic ecosystem. They usually evade detection by jumping between different DSPs. 

However, buyers.json would allow SSPs and publishers to learn the identifications of malvertisers from DSPs as soon as they’re revealed on one of these platforms. Entities with malvertising intentions would thus be blocked on all DSPs sharing this information.

Sortable, a Freestar company, Pledges Support for Buyers.json Proposal 

All of this has made it evident that pledging support for buyers.json is a task of immense importance — which is why Sortable, a Freestar company, has agreed to join the push for a wide-ranging industry adoption of the proposed buyers.json model. This initiative is being led by our ad quality[5] partner, Confiant, and you learn more about it here. The notion of a mirror concept to sellers.json continues to become more and more popular across the entire industry, and Sortable, a Freestar company, was glad to be one of the first companies to support it. 

There is no reason for publishers to constantly have to choose between protecting website users from malvertising and increasing their own revenue; cutting into their own profitability and straining their resource management options. 

It is absolutely necessary that publishers have clear insights into the source of malvertising, with the ability to shut down those who act in bad faith. According to the Confiant Demand Quality Report – 2020 Year in Review, “For 2020 as a whole, we detected serious security or quality issues with 1 in every 260 impressions”. When they looked at just security threats, it was 1 in 700. 

In the context of the industry, the current state is definitely an unacceptable situation. Billions of impressions result in compromised user experiences every single month, and buyers.json would go a long way towards putting a stop to that. In the end, the rationale is pretty simple: publishers should have access to information on who their buyers are, because the latter have access to users and publisher[9] inventories. 

1. programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising entails using machine learning and technology suites to buy and sell ad inventory with a data-driven process.
2. 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.
3. Accelerated Mobile Pages [AMP] ( amp ) Accelerated Mobile Pages is a project supported by Google to provide web publishers with a way to serve web page very quickly for mobile devices.
4. transparency. To be considered transparent, a solution provider must fully disclose all components of the buy including pricing, any related mark ups, delivery, placement level media location, inventory type, inventory mix, and how advanced audience data is being applied and reported. Arbitrage and black box inventory solutions are not transparent.
5. ad quality. A term that refers to the settings that allow sellers to determine which creatives will be allowed to serve on their inventory.

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