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Weekly Roundup: IAB’s TCF GDPR Non-Compliance, Google’s FLEDGE, Header Bidding Adoption Rate

TCF and GDPR compliance
“The TCF and Open RTB framework has been run over with a fine-tooth comb by European lawmakers and there is finally some clear and precise answer on what is needed to ensure that the way data is collected and shared on individuals is compliant with today’s modern privacy standards.”


  • Concerning TCF and GDPR compliance, the Belgian DPA has found IAB Europe to be non-compliant with various provisions of Europe’s privacy regulation and levied the trade body with a fine of €250,000 and multiple sanctions
  • Google announced that it would start initial testing for FLEDGE, its new privacy sandbox solution for retargeting,  and a second origin trial for Core Attribution reporting API in Q1 of 2022
  • With 70% of the top 10k US sites using header bidding in Q1 2022, Amazon takes the front seat as the preferred adapter and top header bidding partner
  • Programmatic video ad spending is expected to grow to $62.96 billion in 2022
  • Supply Chain Objects (SCO) data are essential to be incorporated with sellers.json to provide complete insight into supply chain information and detect poor-quality supply chains
  • Privacy-first browser Brave slammed Google for favoring itself while finding alternative user-tracking solutions
  • Google’s total ad revenue for Q4 2021 increased by 33% to reach $61.2 billion, including $43 billion from  search advertising 
  • The Telegraph combined its two news apps to launch a new simplified app that helped the publisher increase its paid digital subscribers to 720,250 in 2021
  • The New York Times acquired Wordle, a new and popular vocabulary puzzle, in a bid to provide value to existing readers and gain new subscribers

IAB’s TCF and GDPR Compliance

The Belgian DPA has passed a ruling against IAB Europe in retaliation to TCF and GDPR compliance. They cited that TCF fails to comply with various provisions of the GDPR. TCF (Transparency & Consent Framework) is responsible for facilitating users’ preferences in personalized advertising during real-time bidding

As per the ruling, IAB Europe has been fined €250,000 and given two months to create an action plan to rectify TCF’s compliance issues. The action plan needs execution within the next six months, failing which an additional daily fine of €5,000 will be imposed.

The ruling specifies IAB Europe to be a data controller. The TCF relies heavily on good actors to respect and uphold users’ data sharing preferences. Without checks or balances to prevent data misuse, IAB Europe has been found guilty of consent fraud. Further, it doesn’t have any plausible way to audit that the data has been processed compliantly. 

IAB Europe has remained adamant that it doesn’t support the ruling and that it isn’t a data controller by any means. They also plan on mounting a legal defense to challenge this ruling. In the meantime, however, they look forward to collaborating with DPA to make the TCF GDPR compliant.

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Web Browser Updates

Google’s FLEDGE and Core Attribution API

Google will start testing its Topics API to replace FLoC and its second origin trial for Core Attribution reporting API during Q1 2022.

FLEDGE is Google’s Privacy Sandbox solution that has been proposed for retargeting. Brand-specific cohorts of users can be remarketed to using FLEDGE while restricting cross-site tracking of users’ browsing behavior by third parties.

On the other hand, Core Attribution API is a technology that helps identify when a user’s action has led to a conversion. It doesn’t use any cross-site ID. The second origin trial is expected to include more sophisticated debugging and testing methods, allowing advertisers and publishers to compare and analyze results with those from existing third-party cookie solutions. 

While each solution is being released individually, Google would eventually need to release the Topics API, FLEDGE, and the Core Attribution API for combined testing. All three solutions need to work in tandem to replace the complete functionality that third-party cookies offer essentially. 

“All of these signals together give the advertiser the option to choose which makes sense to produce the most relevant result,”

– Ben Galbraith, Sr. Director, Product, Google (Src)

Brave Criticizes Google’s Topics API

The adtech industry has been opposing Google’s intent of phasing out third-party cookies. Many claimed that this would favor Google in further consolidating its position in the market. While third-party cookies have faced a recurrent backlash owing to privacy concerns, replacing one with the other hardly seems to be the solution. Having a massive grasp over the market makes Google’s influence inescapable.

Its recent alternative, the Topics API, is a replacement for FLoC, which received severe criticism from the industry and regulators alike, owing to fundamental flaws in the technology. Topics API’s groups’ websites are based on user interest-based topics and attach the ID of a user interacting with them. Theoretically, this only limits the information shared to the personal interests of users.

However, Peter Snyder, Sr. Director of Privacy at Brave, points out that no matter how important the adtech community deems privacy, Google finds an alternative to collect users’ personal information. He also posits that while Topics API may seem safe at first glance, it can soon be misused to keep track of a user’s entire browsing history.

AdTech Trends

Adoption of Header Bidding

Header bidding has been slow to attract publishers’ attention and ad spend despite having existed for some time now. However, this is rapidly changing. Kevel’s HBIX 2022 tracker reports that close to 70% of US publishers amongst the top 10k sites are using header bidding in Q1 2022. This increased from the 65.9% that the same tracker reported in Q1 2021.

Header Bidding Adoption Rate

Reference Image Source: Kevel

Amazon has also become the preferred header bidding adapter, receiving pings from 80% of sites implementing header bidding. It has also steadily increased since Q1 2021, acquiring Xander to become the top bidder in the US ad market. 

Programmatic Video Ad Spending

Video advertising has urged buyers to look for means that guarantee scale and efficiency. The obvious choice is programmatic video advertising. While ad fraud, lack of well-specified standards, and cross-device measurement limitations plague programmatic video, it is bound to catch up. 2022 is expected to see video rise by four percentage points to secure above half of total programmatic digital display ad spend.

US Programmatic Video Ad Spending

Reference Image Source: eMarketer

eMarketer forecasts that 2022 will see similar growth in the programmatic video market as the previous year, with US ad spending increasing from $52.17 billion to $62.96 billion. Mobile ads, representing two-thirds of the ad spend, will slowly have to give way to CTV. It is expected to increase by 39.2% in 2022 – albeit a more moderate growth than the 82.4% in 2021. 

Google’s Ad Revenue

Despite Google’s revenue growth remaining in the low double-digits over the last five years, the company has grown much larger than it was in 2016. Google has smashed its records by seeing the strongest revenue growth of 41% since 2007 and made $257 billion in annual revenue, exceeding $200 billion for the first time. 

Its Q4 2021, the total revenue gain grew by 32% to reach $75.33 billion. Out of this, the total ad revenue accounted for $61.2 billion, a 33% rise. A majority of this ad revenue was contributed by search advertising, which grew by 35% to reach $43 billion. Retail, Youtube, CTV, and GCP accounted for the rest. 

What does this mean for the adtech industry?

This ruling by the BE DPA has severe implications for everyone involved. TCF is ingrained in almost every aspect of the OpenRTB process. Therefore, advertisers, publishers, and all other middlemen would need to reassess their TCF reliance immediately. Since many businesses paid IAB Europe to implement TCF, the trade body might face indemnification and lawsuits for damages and unnecessary costs. 

An industry-wide overhaul might be necessary because TCF ID strings are shared broadly and used for various purposes such as retargeting. It also poses a technical and logistical problem whereby all collected data needs to be deleted, having been deemed illegal. However, there is no way to verify that it is the same user data and has indeed been deleted. 

Supply Chain Transparency

Supply Chain Objects and Sellers.json

Sellers.json can document a buyer’s relationship with an inventory source and whether that inventory is being sold directly by the publisher, or through a reseller. However, it is mired by limitations and doesn’t guarantee complete accuracy. Furtherthermore, an existing entry in the sellers.json file does not always ensure that inventory is available to buyers. Only intermediaries require sellers.json files, making it challenging to verify live inventory unless bidstream data and Supply Chain Objects (SCO) are accessible. 

Complete transparency and poor-quality supply chains detection require access to SCO reporting and knowledge of the involved supply-chain objects in a bid request. It is essentially the key that connects sellers.json with ads.txt and provides a 360°-view of the entire supply chain. SCO in DV360 can also show the identities of up to 10 nodes (entities participating in the bidding). This ensures enhanced visibility into all sellers receiving payment for an individual bid request.

However, it comes with complications, requiring specialized tools to extract and include it in the bitstream. Regardless, it is something that the industry should look forward to investing in and building the necessary infrastructure and technology to allow SCO to provide better insights into programmatic transactions. 

Publishers’ Strategies

The Telegraph’s App Strategy

To promote simplicity to readers, The Telegraph combined their two separate apps, ‘ Live’ and ‘Events’, to create a single app that launched in April 2021. Content curation and additional content are features of the app. 

“Having one app has clear advantages. It’s easier to manage internally, meaningless infrastructure, less cost, less confusion for the users.”

– Mathias Douchet, Director of Product, The Telegraph (Src)

The Telegraph based the app on its website – albeit considering the decision to be risky at first. However, the plan paid dividends. The publisher promoted a cleaner and faster app by removing SEO codes, cookies, advertising, and anything inessential to the reading experience. Thus, The Telegraph promoted a cleaner experience and a faster app.

The publisher also intended the app to provide additional value to users who subscribed via the website rather than the app. App subscriptions were avoided to dodge the exorbitant fees charged by platforms controlled by tech giants (Apple’s App Store, Google’s Play Store). If these platforms allow third-party subscriptions in the future, The Telegraph might rethink this strategy.

The app has helped the news publisher surpass their subscription goals for 2021 by 250 thousand. They accrued 720,250 subscribers in December 2021. The next target is to reach 1 million subscribers by 2023

The New York Times’ Acquisition of Wordle

Wordle, a vocabulary-related puzzle that has made headways in social media, has been acquired by The New York Times. According to a spokesperson, The Times paid a sum ‘in the low seven figures.’

Wordle is the latest addition to The Times’ plethora of games. NYT’s games-only subscription comes for only £25 per year. In a press release, the publisher confirmed that their cooking and games products had reached 1 million subscribers each. The games have been played over 500 million times over the last year.

This acquisition comes when both US and UK publishers are investing heavily in such brainteasing games. In a bid to gain extra subscribers, drive retention by providing existing users with value, and use them to generate added revenue, more than 22 puzzle title launches took place in the magazine sector only last year. A few other names that have experimented with such games recently include The Telegraph, The Guardian, and Bauer Media UK.

Moments That Matter

  • ANA asks FTC to thwart surveillance advertising ban – ANA Driving Growth 
  • FTC commissioner opens up about surveillance advertising- AdExchanger
  • Key challenges that Google faces in 2022 – Digiday
  • Amidst privacy changes, Apple revenues surge drastically – eMarketer
Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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