What Should Publishers Know About Seller Defined Audience?

Updated on: January 4, 2024
This specification establishes an effective, scalable, and privacy-forward approach to help publishers monetize and freely compete with each other based on the underlying quality of their audiences without having to worry about data leakage or needing to arduously set up hundreds of Deal ID-based private marketplaces.

The demise of the third-party cookie has caused an identity crisis in the ad tech industry. Unlike walled gardens, the publishers of the open web don’t have the luxury of signed-in users. Universal identifiers are one of the emerging solutions for the post-cookie world, but we are yet to verify their effectiveness.

IAB Tech Lab’s Seller-Defined Audience is another set of approaches to bring addressability in the cookieless world. It can also securely scale the monetization of first-party data via the open web. So, let’s try to understand IAB’s solution.

What Is the Purpose of Seller Defined Audience?

The goal of IAB Tech Lab’s proposal is to enable the publisher to label the audience and transmit those labels to the bidders. These labels can define the audience segments across demographics, interest, and purchase intent attributes. It’ll also be possible to send contextual signals. The bidders will be able to find the right audience without third-party cookies and the whole process is supposed to be privacy-friendly and with no violation of any laws.

“This specification establishes an effective, scaleable, and privacy-forward approach to help publishers monetize and freely compete with each other based on the underlying quality of their audiences without having to worry about data leakage or needing to arduously set up hundreds of Deal ID-based private marketplaces,”

Benjamin Dick, Sr Director of Product – Privacy, Identity, Data at IAB Tech Lab

The Resources for Seller Defined Audience

IAB Tech Lab says that the resources required for Seller Defined Audience are already available to us. Let us have a look at each of them:

  • Audience Taxonomy: The IAB Tech Lab Audience Taxonomy lists names to define audience segments. When all the parties use a standard naming convention, there’s no scope for confusion. For example, without standardization, a vendor can name a segment as – Auto-intenders, whereas another vendor can identify the same as – In-market for cars.

The audience taxonomy brings convenience in the process of buying and selling the inventory. It has 1600 standardized attributes that can combine to triangulate and describe even niche audience characteristics.

  • Data Transparency Standard: It is a standardized schema with a set of minimum disclosure requirements for the seller. This schema will include the Audience Taxonomy labels we discussed in the previous point. Additionally, it’ll have the information required to assess the quality of the labeled data.

The quality determinants include the source of data attribution, its age, to what extent it was manipulated, the criteria for segmentation, and when it will be comparable to other segments. IAB will ensure that all parties label the segments correctly with the help of its compliance program.

  • Data Label Repository: Buyers and sellers can refer to it on www.DataLabel.Org to understand every data label.

So, publishers and their partners can understand the audience and attribute the standardized taxonomies to them. The anonymized form of the taxonomy IDs can be relayed in the OpenRTB for the buyers. Users will be added in cohorts to keep the data anonymous. When a publisher will define his cohorts more accurately than his competitors, they’ll perform better for the advertiser. As a result, publishers with high-performing cohorts will attract more demand than their peers.

How Would Seller Defined Audiences Work?

Here’s how all the ad tech parties shall work together to make Seller Defined Audiences work:

  1. Publishers and their partners (helping them with data-related needs) will determine the attributes of their audience.
  2. They’ll send the information about the attribution to www.DataLabel.Org (as discussed earlier in the Data Transparency Standard section). It’ll hold this information so that bidding participants can refer to it when needed.
  3. Prebid will send the audience labels/cohorts and the details of the label provider in the OpenRTB supply chain.
  4. The parties interested in bidding can check www.DataLabel.Org in real-time to understand and evaluate the cohort before bidding.
  5. The ad creative renders after bidding.

What Are the Advantages of Seller Defined Audiences?

Now you must be thinking why should you consider Seller Defined Audiences a reliable method? Is it better than the other solutions? The IAB Tech Lab’s explanation indicates some advantages with this approach:

  1. Both the demand and the supply side get a common ground to define and communicate audience data.
  2. You, as a publisher, will get hundreds of ways to name your audience, and the buyer can choose whether to trust the seller or not (by analyzing the DTS info). It allows you to enjoy flexibility in the segmentation process.
  3. Not only you but other data-providing partners can also classify a single piece of traffic using the transparency standards. So, the segmentation process isn’t entirely dependent on publishers.
  4. The transparency brought by DataLabel.org will allow buyers to make informed decisions before spending their money on Seller Defined Audiences.
  5. IAB Tech Lab’s compliance program will ensure that the buyers can trust the data labels. A trustworthy process is a must to generate demand for Seller Defined Audiences.
  6. You can share the segments without revealing the first-party data IDs. You can relay the data that is valuable for open exchange but not competitive with the direct audience offerings. In this way, your first-party data can remain protected, and your direct deals wouldn’t be cannibalized as well.

While the solution appears to be promising on its face, we’ll see its true efficiency only after the adaptation picks up. Keep checking our adtech weekly roundups for further updates on it.

What’s Next?

As a publisher, you’ll see many such solutions coming up in the future. There’s a high probability that you’ll need multiple tools to fill the gap of the third-party cookie. You’ve to evaluate them to understand their best usage. For instance, an ID solution might be best for private auction, whereas Seller Defined Audience might be ideal for open auctions or vice-versa.

Said that there’ll be a host of opportunities with your first-party data, and some tools may help you increase its value further. In other words, you have to be open to suggestions and experimentations. Wait for the solution to be adopted by a few industry players and then try it yourself.

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