Kabeer Chaudhary
May 8, 2019

Let's make potato trading great again!

An allegory to help you grasp the importance of the IAB's sellers.json and OpenRTB Supply Chain Object.

Yum (Shutterstock)
Yum (Shutterstock)

The IAB tech lab released two new specifications a couple of weeks ago, sellers.json and the OpenRTB Supply chain object, which are aimed  to add more transparency in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. This move is a follow up to the great work started by the IAB tech lab last year, when it introduced ads.txt, later followed up by appads.txt

In this article, I’ll try to explain the IAB specifications and their evolution in the last year with the help of the potato trading industry analogy.

Imagine Johnny is a passionate consumer of a certain variety of Japanese potatoes and loves to make fries out of them. Whenever he wishes to get his hands on these potatoes, he faces two main problems:

  1. Authenticity

There are a lot of shops selling Japanese potatoes however there is no way for him to verify whether these are really authentic Japanese potatoes or not.

  1. Transparency

These potatoes go through a number of middlemen—traders, agents, wholesalers, retailers—and finally to Johnny. A number of these do not add any value to the supply chain and end up inflating the price of the potatoes.

When the IAB released ads.txt last year, the main objective was to tackle the problem of authencity. Ads.txt was a simple one pager that any potato farmer could use to publicly declare the companies that are authorized to sell his or her potatoes. Hence, for someone like Johnny, it would be easy to buy genuine Japanese potatoes by just having a quick look at the farmer’s ad.txt file. In the past year, this simple fix has helped buyers such as Johnny to authenticate and validate every Japanese potato they buy.

While ads.txt was fighting the problem of authenticity, the second problem of transparency still prevailed. As a result, IAB has recently released two new specifications—sellers.json and the OpenRTB Supply Chain Object—to tackle the problem of transparency across the supply chain

Sellers.json enables buyers like Johnny to discover who the entities are in the potato trade, either direct sellers or resellers. Once finalised, it resellers such as traders, agents, wholesalers and retailers will be required to post their sellers.json file for Johnny to review. The OpenRTB Supply Chain object, on the other hand, enables Johnny to have a clear view of all the parties involved in selling and reselling of every Japanese potato.

With these two specifications implemented, buyers like Johnny and farmers will gain more transparency in the entire supply chain. The two most important parties in the entire ecosystem, the consumers and the farmers, will get a clear view of how many parties have been involved in the eventual sale and consumption of each and every potato. In the longer run, this will help to eliminate players who merely act as resellers without adding any value in the potato supply chain.

For those who are still confused:

  • Potatoes are the impressions
  • Japanese farmers are the publishers
  • The agents, traders, wholesalers in the supply chain are the SSP, ad exchanges and ad networks
  • Johnny is the the media buyer.

With added regulation in the programmatic supply chain, IAB has made its intent very clear: to give buyers added confidence in buying inventory programmatically and make life difficult for resellers who merely change hands without adding any value in the supply chain.

Kabeer Chaudhary is APAC managing partner with M&C Saatchi Performance.

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