Never Fear, IAB Seller-Defined Audiences Is Here

In the latest attempt at saving the day before the cookiepocalypse, please meet our potential super data hero — seller-defined audiences (SDA).

This solution developed by the IAB Tech Lab is a proof of concept released last week as a result of Project Rearc launched two years ago. The SDA draft spec is intended to encourage publishers to work together to monetize first-party data on the open web.

We know this idea is met with a mix of “finally” and “yeah right” depending on where you stand but here’s the promise — seller-defined audiences will allow publishers to scale their own audience data and “transact programmatically across multiple sites and sellers in a privacy-safe way.” The spec will position publishers to sell more than 1,600 versions of contextual audiences to advertisers and standardize these audiences for buying facilitation across multiple publishers.

Publishers remain in the driver’s seat, choosing which adtech companies to share their data with and advertisers will buy through participating DSPs.

Most publishers have been eating and sleeping tactics around first-party data and contextual targeting in preparation for a cookieless future. Seller-defined audiences could make this effort even more profitable, providing multiple revenue streams from both owned ad space and audience targeting on other sites.

First-party data and contextual targeting alone are nearly impossible to scale as is today, but their value guarantees higher CPMs based on relevance and precision. The SDA solution benefits pubs of all sizes as it puts further emphasis on what all sites were initially built on. While this initiative is only successful if publishers band together for the greater good, the payoff could be worth it.

However, the SDA spec does not come without concern and a boatload of questions. From privacy advocates closely examining if this crosses the line of consent to opportunities for fraud as advertisers have to rely on publishers to provide honest and accurate audience data.

The IAB Tech Lab seems to have a viable answer for every concern, from limiting the targeting data to an individual URL to data vetting by the Transparency Standard program and the compliance program that will monitor the quality and legitimacy of a publisher’s audience.

All ducks seem to be in a row. Now, who will be the first to sign up?