What is the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), and why is it important?

Ed French

As digital advertising grows and evolves, it is becoming increasingly important to have a set of standards and guidelines in place to ensure consistency and interoperability across different systems and devices.

That’s where the Interactive Advertising Bureau comes in, a global organisation that develops and promotes technical standards and best practices for digital advertising. This article explores the IAB's history and mission and why it is essential for consumers and the industry.

What is the IAB?

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), founded in New York in 1996, is a non-profit organisation that develops industry standards and provides legal counsel to the online advertising industry. The organisation represents various media outlets, primarily emphasising the United States and Europe. IAB Europe, an affiliate of IAB, comprises 27 national IABs from across Europe, with over 500 firms participating.

The purpose of the IAB Framework

The IAB Framework fosters uniform collaboration among online publishers, advertisers, and technology companies that provide consent management to meet the GDPR's transparency and user consent requirements.

The IAB Framework was developed in collaboration with various stakeholders in the online advertising industry. It enables the exchange of consent between first-party publishers, third-party advertisers, and consent management solutions used on the publisher's website, such as Secure Privacy. These three groups are referred to as "publishers," "vendors," and "CMPs" in the Framework.

How does the IAB Framework work?

The IAB Framework exchanges user consent information between first parties (i.e., publishers), third parties (i.e., advertisers), and the consent management provider used on the publisher's website.

Under the IAB Framework, publishers choose their preferred vendors from a list of vendors who have joined the Framework. This list is called the Global Vendor List or "GVL." To participate in the Framework, vendors must agree to a set of conditions, including updating their code to ensure that cookies are only set with user consent or an applicable legal basis and not processing personal data without direct consent from a CMP or a given online request.

Essentially, the Global Vendor List serves as a registry for "whitelisted" vendors who have complied with the Framework's regulations. When publishers enrol in the IAB Framework, they collaborate with one or more vendors from the Global Vendor List. 

The user's consent status is saved in a first-party cookie in their browser and shared with advertisers in the IAB Framework's information chain. Once the user consents, only the selected vendors have permission to process the user's data for relevant purposes, while others do not.

The IAB content taxonomy

The Content Taxonomy is like a common language used to create a standard set of categories to describe the characteristics of online content, such as videos, ads, and articles. The taxonomy is extremely helpful in consistently classifying content, making it easier for publishers and other stakeholders to understand and manage it. Moreover, it allows for better contextual targeting and improves brand safety.

The newest version, version 3.0, is now ready for use and has been enhanced to better support various kinds of content such as news, video/CTV content, podcasts, radio, games, and app stores. These improvements include updates to the "Aboutness categories" and additional "vectors," meaning some categories from earlier versions have been removed.

Using the latest version of the IAB Content Taxonomy, 7th Minute provides top-of-the-line topic segmentation to help you improve your contextual targeting and brand safety.

IAB specifications and standardisation 

The IAB Tech Lab is committed to promoting a thriving and long-lasting digital media and advertising industry worldwide by producing international technical standards and solutions. 

The organisation places significant emphasis on three essential focus areas: 

  • Identity-related work to achieve a balance between consumer privacy and addressability
  • The development of technical standards to boost the expansion of Advanced TV
  • The promotion of technical standards that combat ad fraud, ensure supply chain transparency and enhances security

Through its ongoing efforts, the IAB Tech Lab is helping to foster a healthy and sustainable digital media and advertising landscape.

How are IAB standards developed?

The IAB works closely with key players in the digital advertising ecosystem, including publishers, advertisers, agencies, and technology providers, to establish industry standards. This often involves forming working groups and committees concentrating on specific domains like ad formats, measurement, and privacy.

The IAB's standards span a range of critical areas such as ad formats, measurement, targeting, data privacy, and consumer protection. For instance, the VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) and VPAID (Video Player-Ad Interface Definition) specifications are prime examples of IAB standards that facilitate the delivery of video ads across multiple devices and platforms.

Standardisation is important because it promotes consistency and interoperability among various systems and devices. By adhering to IAB standards, advertisers and publishers can ensure that their ads will work properly across multiple devices and platforms and that they will be able to accurately measure their performance.

In addition to developing standards, the IAB provides guidance and best practices to assist industry participants in complying with regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). By following IAB guidance, companies can help ensure that their advertising practices comply with applicable laws and regulations.

Standardisation in the CTV market

As the connected TV (CTV) market is rapidly growing, it is becoming increasingly urgent to try and achieve standardisation across the industry. To engage viewers better with more relevant messaging, the IAB must improve further standardisation to help grow and build the viewers' trust in brands. 

To improve standardisation, the UK IAB members have released a glossary of CTV definitions to encourage language sharing across the market.

They have also discussed the importance of standardisation across the CTV market and agreed on areas that need specific attention to advance standardisation across the UK CTV market.

According to the UK IAB members, the following areas need to be addressed to boost the growth of the CTV market:

  • Effective measurement
  • Detect and protect against fraudulent traffic
  • Certifying platforms that can prevent fraud
  • Make it easier for brands to transition to addressable ads
  • Improve user experience
  • Redefine how to measure success in the CTV space

Overall, standardisation is critical for increasing brand trust and encouraging additional investment in the CTV market. To achieve this, members of the IAB UK are collaborating and innovating in the CTV space to create a shared vision for the future of television.

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