The Greater Good: Industry Must Support Standardization

Strength in numbers and subjugating individual interests to a greater good are concepts found throughout history. The digital advertising community must now embrace these concepts in support of increased standardization if it hopes to continue as a diverse and vibrant industry, rather than an oligopoly of walled gardens.

Until now, the industry has been notoriously opaque. Google and Facebook account for almost 57% of U.S. digital advertising investment according to eMarketer. Recent investigations found some ad-tech providers employed policies that fly in the face of marketers’ demands for greater transparency. The solution lies in open, transparent standards and shared principles of conduct accessible to and agreed upon by everyone to move the industry forward.

Standardization is the key to the industry’s future. The demand for standards around things like privacy, transparent auctions and fraud prevention is reaching a fevered pitch. That’s really just table stakes.  Beyond that are things like deterministic, omnichannel identifiers to improve interactions with consumers by linking data from customer files and offline channels to media exposure in programmatic channels and transparent data sources.  The list goes on.



When it comes to user data and cross-channel attribution, standardization represents the only viable path to effective scalability. There are various options available in market today, from independent bodies like DigiTrust, which is housed within the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab, from collective efforts like the Ad ID Consortium, as well as from buy-side players like The Trade Desk’s Unified ID Solution.

Ad-tech providers and publishers must join these efforts or many will fail to thrive, or even exist. Without standardization, marketers find it exceedingly difficult to maintain messaging consistency, to understand what they are buying and where they are buying it, and to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Digital advertising has already benefited from various standards of programmatic auctions, such as IAB’s OpenRTB framework and’s widely-adopted wrapper solution built on open-source technology that has a shared set of project principles to promote collaboration, transparency and performance. Most recently, leading sell-side technology companies announced a collective effort to establish a shared code of conduct around auction dynamics across the industry to rebuild trust in programmatic advertising.

Is this kind of standardization a big ask? It is. Money and radical change are on the table, and whenever that’s the case, the road is going to be bumpy—to say the least.

But the challenge needs to be kept in perspective. “Change or die” is an overused trope, but it really applies in this situation. There will be costs and sacrifices of proprietary models involved in adopting standardization, especially in areas like user ID.

For industry participants not to band together to support these efforts is simply unthinkable. The long-term benefits to the entire digital advertising industry far outweigh the short-term costs to individual participants.

Without standardization, future scalability outside the giant’s walled gardens is unachievable. The ROI on any costs involved is, literally, the future success of the rest of the industry.

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