IAB Tech Lab Bulks Up OpenRTB’s CTV Toolset with Ad Pods

09 December, 2021 

IAB Tech Lab, an industry consortium which develops technologies and standards for the digital advertising industry, has today released the latest version of its OpenRTB specification for public comment. The flagship feature of the latest version, OpenRTB 2.6, is the inclusion of ad pods for connected TV inventory.

OpenRTB in Tech Lab’s communication protocol for real-time bidding. Essentially, it lays out how different technologies in the RTB chain should speak to each other, allowing interoperability between a wide range of tech solutions. Tech Lab periodically releases updates to this protocol to cover a wider range of features and ad formats, though these updates are fairly infrequent – the previous version, 2.5, was released in 2016.

This latest update adds coverage for ‘pod bidding’ in CTV environments. A lot of CTV publishers run ads in pods – groupings of multiple ads shown one after another – to replicate the traditional TV ad break. But selling these ads via real-time bidding can be complicated.

For example, a buyer might want to buy the first ad within an ad pod – or at least know where within an ad pod they are buying. Or they might want to run sequential ads which run within an ad pod.

And some ad pods have fairly unique properties which affect the bidding process. Tech Lab defines one category as ‘dynamic ad pods’, where the overall length of the ad break is fixed, by the length of individual ads within the pod is flexible. This obviously requires some calculation within the bidding process to ads of various lengths within a fixed ad break.

The new update will cater to these sorts of use cases.

“Bidding can now be done for multiple commercial breaks in one ad request with the knowledge of where the ad will be placed within the content and how long will it be for, and buyers can plan their creative strategy accordingly,” said Shailley Singh, SVP of product at IAB Tech Lab. “Specifically, advertisers can bid based on pod id, slot in pod, network, channel, and content category, in addition to other existing OpenRTB parameters.”

Singh added that these changes should improve user experience too. “The Open RTB 2.6 ad pod enhancement enables making one ad request for multiple ad impressions,” he said. “This will reduce latency, enable prefetching, and smooth stitching of ads into content to support seamless TV like user experience.”

Connecting the dots

Ad pod bidding is not a new concept – a number of programmatic trading tools already offer ad pod bidding.

But the key here is that the OpenRTB update will enable better interoperability between various pod bidding solutions, allowing greater scale. “Ad pod functionality in OpenRTB 2.6 will provide standardised ad podding capabilities industry-wide, enabling interoperability at scale for all participants and consistency in managing ad pods for publishers and buying for advertisers,” said Singh.

James Wilhite, director of product at CTV ad tech specialist Publica, described the update as a “huge leap forward in how the industry will monetise CTV ad breaks”.

OpenRTB 2.6 contains other updates which will further benefit CTV. These include the introduction of Network and Channel objects to support CTV inventory description, and improved support for contextual buying which will include taxonomy for TV genres.

OpenRTB 2.6 will be available for pubic comment until February 7th next year.


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