Muki's AdTech Diary February 2024

What happened in AdTech in February 2024?

The Digital Services Act coming into effect – Opportunity or Challenge?
The Digital Services Act (DSA) represents a significant step by the EU towards a secure and transparent digital space and is considered one of the most important digital policy frameworks in Europe – a kind of constitution for the internet. The aim is to protect users' fundamental rights and establish fair competitive conditions for companies, fostering innovation, growth, and competitiveness both within the domestic market and globally.

The DSA obliges online platforms to be more transparent, also regarding advertising. Users must be able to discern who is funding the advertising and what information was used to select it. From a user perspective, this creates transparency, which we, as marketers, naturally welcome. As part of the DSA, advertisers must disclose the parameters used for delivering advertisements. These parameters correspond directly with a purpose outlined in the Transparency Consent Framework:

  1. Users receive a rough assessment based on which information they have seen advertisements.
  2. There is a uniform standard for ad identification – previously, everyone had been doing their own thing.
  3. As marketers, we can utilize the data to better understand the exact origin of the advertisements and optimize them more effectively.

Transparency, Control, and Consent
However, particularly the second point raises concerns among DSPs. The back-and-forth transmission of DSA information through the bid chain is undesirable as it reveals too much information about the buyers. DSPs prefer a solution where they control the information (the DSP receives the DSA info but does not send it back). To address this issue, Consent Manager has proposed mechanisms to restrict the SSPs' access to this DSA information to the IAB. The proposed solution entails the following: Instead of sending the DSA information back to the SSP via OpenRTB, the DSP only sends a URL to the SSP. The SSP forwards the URL to the Consent Management Platform (CMP) or the website. The CMP then retrieves the URL on the user's device to obtain the JSON-formatted DSA information.

I strongly support this proposal by Consentmanagers and their commitment to certain standards in this area. Any publisher potentially falling under the DSA always needs a CMP if they wish to serve programmatic advertising. Therefore, GDPR and DSA apply simultaneously, necessitating the continuous use of a CMP. It can render the ad identifier on the page if publishers do not have the necessary resources to implement it themselves.

What does this mean for revenue?
As publishers and marketers for publishers, we now have to assess which DSPs and advertisers are actually implementing the DSA requirements. In essence, whether the necessary transparency information is being sent along with the requests.

The problem arises when it is mandatory for an ad request to include transparency information – who bought the advertisement, who funded it, which targeting mechanisms were used, etc. If this information cannot be included because a DSP does not yet support it, then the demand suffers significantly. Currently, it's unclear what impact this will have on revenue. We are now A/B testing to find answers, but we fear that it will have rather negative consequences. The impact on revenue is therefore currently the biggest concern for publishers and marketers in relation to the DSA.

The DSA comes into force – opportunity or challenge?
The Digital Services Act marks a significant step by the EU towards a secure and transparent digital space and is considered one of the most important digital policy regulations in Europe - a kind of basic law for the Internet. The aim is to protect the fundamental rights of users and create a fair playing field for companies in order to promote innovation, growth and competitiveness both in the internal market and globally.

The DSA obliges online platforms to be more transparent, including with regard to advertising. Users must be able to see who pays for the advertising and what information was used to select the advertising. From the user's perspective, this creates transparency, which we of course also welcome as marketers. As part of the DSA, advertisers must indicate the parameters with which the advertising was delivered. These parameters correspond one-to-one with a purpose from the Transparency Consent Framework. With it:

  1. ... users receive a rough estimate of the information based on which information they have seen advertising.
  2. ... there is a uniform standard for ad identification - so far everyone has cooked their own soup.

...we as marketers can use the data to better understand where exactly the advertising comes from and to optimize it better.

Transparency, control and consent
However, the second point in particular is a concern for DSPs. Sending the DSA information back and forth through the bid chain is undesirable because it reveals too much information about the buyers. DSPs prefer a solution where they control the information (the DSP receives the DSA info but does not send it back). To solve this problem, Consentmanager has in one Proposal presented mechanisms to the IAB on how to restrict SSPs' access to this DSA information. The solution is as follows: Instead of sending the DSA information back to the SSP via OpenRTB, the DSP only sends a URL to the SSP. This forwards the URL to the Consent Management Platform (CMP) or the website. The CMP calls the URL on the user's device to get the JSON-formatted DSA information.

We very much welcome this proposal from Consentmanager and their commitment to certain standards in this area. Every publisher that could fall under the DSA must always have a CMP if they want to display programmatic advertising. Accordingly, GDPR and DSA apply at the same time, which is why a CMP is always in use. It can therefore render the ad identifier on the page when publishers do not have the resources to implement such a thing themselves.

What does this mean for sales?
As publishers and marketers for publishers, we now have to look at which DSPs and advertisers actually implement the DSA requirements. In short, whether the necessary information for transparency is already being sent.

It becomes problematic if we make it mandatory that an advertising request MUST contain transparency information - who bought the advertising, who paid for it, what targeting mechanisms were used, etc.

If this information cannot be sent because a DSP does so, for example. For example, if it is not yet supported, demand will suffer enormously. It is still unclear what impact this will have on sales. We are currently running A/B tests to find out. But we fear that it will have more negative consequences. The impact on sales is currently the biggest sticking point for publishers and marketers in connection with the DSA.

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