The Three Musketeers: Content Taxonomy, Audience Taxonomies & Seller Defined Audiences

With constant shifts right and left in ad tech land, organization is key, and the IAB Tech Lab is good for keeping publishers and advertisers in a good place by presenting updates that keep us away from fines and regulations.

The Content Taxonomy 3.0 update allowed us all to sigh in relief. The “News” and “Op-Ed” categories were meshed together by default for so long that now separated advertisers can be more specific about how they place and curate ads instead of having to work within the constraints of both categories being one.

The latest update, Ad Product Taxonomy 1.1, is U.K specific and helps the industry get through new regulations on promoting junk food, or food high in fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS). The IAB Tech Lab expects this update to improve publishers’ ability to block unwanted advertiser demand, for example, ads that do not work with a publisher’s targeted audience.

We chatted with Benjamin Dick, Sr. Director of Product – Privacy, Identity & Data at IAB Tech Lab. He helped us understand the significance behind the Content Taxonomy 3.0 update and the relationship between Audience Taxonomies and Seller Defined Audiences.

Yakira Young: Your Content Taxonomy 3.0 update was recently released. How does it help support a sustainable news category? How will the update protect advertisers from entering non-brand-safe environments?

Benjamin Dick: When implemented by publishers, Content Taxonomy 3.0 enables consistent signaling to advertisers about the “aboutness” of the site or app where ad inventory is available. Importantly – in this latest version of the taxonomy – “News” and “Opinion & Op-Ed” are now distinct, differentiated labels instead of being taxonomically related via a parent/child hierarchy.

Given heightened concern around media responsibility and transparency leading up to the midterms in the U.S., this distinction is necessary to give advertisers more visibility into the type of content where their ads might appear. The previous classification of “Opinion & Op-Ed” as a sibling of “News” complicated this important differentiation. This update is intended to help support a sustainable news category for advertisers and publishers and ensure visibility into potentially brand unsafe environments.

Y.Y.: In the cookieless future, advertisers still want scale, and pubs want to be able to maintain their CPMs and increase yield. Some pubs say that above identity solutions, they believe contextual targeting coupled with Seller Defined Audiences is key to cookieless audience targeting and getting close to what they’re used to getting with 3PC. What are your thoughts here?

B.D.: IAB Tech Lab believes there won’t be a single “silver bullet” technology or approach that makes sense for everyone. Instead, advertisers and publishers will need to rally around a portfolio of approaches to addressability that individually meet different functional needs and business use cases. The mixing and matching of things like Seller Defined Audiences, traditional contextual targeting, responsibly sourced 1-1 I.D. graphs, and other emerging technologies like clean rooms will likely play an important role in that future state as cookie I.D.s, mobile I.D.s, and other forms of metadata continue to be deprecated.

Y.Y.: Next, you’re releasing Ad Product Taxonomy 1.1 for public comment. How will this tool help publishers see revenue increases?

B.D.: There is not a direct association with revenue increases. Instead, it intends to help publishers and advertisers better manage and curate the types of ads that show up on sites and apps.

Y.Y.: What is the relationship between Audience Taxonomies and Seller Defined Audiences? 

B.D.: The basic concept of Seller Defined Audiences is relatively straightforward, with the Audience Taxonomy playing an important role. Publishers or their data partners are expected to determine audience attributes based on user interactions on their properties, map similar groups of users to broad, standardized taxonomy attribute descriptions (as defined by the Audience Taxonomy), and document audience characteristics/metadata via a standardized transparency schema (the Data Transparency Standard aka DTS), then relay these taxonomy I.D.s within OpenRTB to inform downstream signaling by buyers. Content Taxonomy also plays a role here and is simply used in the place of the Audience Taxonomy if a publisher would like to monetize via contextual targeting instead of audience targeting.

Y.Y.: Although the Ad Product Taxonomy update is meant to help the industry better navigate new regulations in the U.K., how will the update affect publishers in the U.S.? 

B.D.: This update is largely UK/EU specific, so there’s relatively little effect for those operating outside of these markets.

Y.Y.: Why should demand-side platforms adopt Ad Product Taxonomy right away? 

B.D.: Advertisers using a DSP that has adopted the Ad Product Taxonomy will benefit from a far more granular, bespoke way of ensuring that the advertiser’s ads does not appear next to other undesirable brands or products – for example, a competitor’s ad or an ad for alcohol – that they do not want to share real estate with.