OpenRTB 2.3 An Important Milestone for Open Programmatic Native Advertising

For a long while native advertising has been a major topic of discussion within the advertising market. All agree that native is rapidly maturing in terms of its market share and user acceptance. At this stage it is clear that the various players in the advertising ecosystem must embrace this relatively new form of advertising, or at least not disregard its existence. During the past year and a half this “approach” has become a “reality”. The IAB has established two main committees and groups to deal with native advertising. The Native Advertising Task force, comprised of over 100 members, has release the Native Advertising Playbook last year, creating the framework that defines the various native ad units and formats. In addition, the Native Ads Workgroup was formed to define the new version of the OpenRTB standard, OpenRTB 2.3, which includes the native ads. In this post we will examine the OpenRTB 2.3 standard and what it has in store for native advertising.

Native advertising’s unique challenges

OpenRTB was launched in late 2010 to spur greater growth in the real-time bidding (RTB) advertising marketplace by providing open industry standards for ad trading communication between buyers of advertising and sellers of publisher inventory. Originally designed for display ads, it has gradually evolved to include additional formats such as video, and now, native advertising. But unlike display advertising, which appears in the same format everywhere, by nature native advertising should retain the look and feel of the target publisher’s page. This means that each instance of the same ad will vary according to each publisher’s page format (e.g. size, headline color, length of text, image size etc..). This creates a unique challenge for the standard, which is otherwise ambivalent about design and formatting issues.

Separating format from structure

In order to deal with this challenge, OpenRTB 2.3 breaks down the ads into their components – the headline, content URL, description text, thumbnail image, etc. This “raw data” is transmitted and it’s up to the native advertising platform, which serves the ad at the publisher’s side (the SSP), to use these components in order to automatically render the ad according to the designated publisher’s look and feel. This means that at least at the supply side, there must be a native advertising system or technology that can take the raw data and automatically render these ads.

Ensuring the right mix of ads on a page

Another issue which was not addressed in the standard, but nevertheless important is how to ensure an appropriate mix of ads on a page. This is especially critical in a content recommendation widget, where two or more ads are displayed next to each other. Of course these ads cannot be repeated on a single page but even more subtle repetitions are undesirable. In this case it’s up to the native advertising platform that picks the ads (the Exchange) to understand the nature of the ads and ensure an appropriate mix of ads. As the OpenRTB protocol progresses, we think more information will be available about the ads that will assist in the creation of optimized ads mixes.

There is no doubt that OpenRTB 2.3 is an important milestone towards open programmatic native advertising. It is the foundation for an open eco-system in which market players can join forces and share their knowledge and developments, contributing to faster growth and rapid progress across the entire ecosystem.

The my6sense white-label native advertising platform currently supports OpenRTB 2.3 as well as other custom APIs, enabling ad networks and media companies to seamlessly create an open and programmatic business.


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