Most publishers not using consent platform for programmatic ads

IAB reported that just 38% of publishers sell '81% or more of their inventory' with a CMP.

IAB: consent signals are likely to see 'sharp rise' in future reports
IAB: consent signals are likely to see 'sharp rise' in future reports

Fewer than four in 10 publishers have reported selling most of their programmatic advertising with a dedicated consent platform, new findings from Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe have revealed. 

For the first time, the trade body’s annual Attitudes to Programmatic Advertising report asked the industry about how many online ads are bought using a consent management platform.

The IAB found that 38% of publishers said they were selling "81% or more of their inventory" with a CMP. This figure falls to 17% for buyers (advertisers or media agencies) that purchase at least 81% of inventory with a CMP.

CMPs offer publishers a tool for more easily obtaining and managing user consent for data processing. Users will typically be presented with a pop-up that prompts them to opt in to data sharing with a publisher’s advertising partners.

However, the IAB noted: "This data was collected before ICO [Information Commissioner's Office], CNIL [the French information commission] and other regulatory bodies released their stance on GDPR. There is likely to be a sharp rise in the percentage of inventory that is being bought and sold with a consent signal following these."

Widespread breaches of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation are being investigated by regulators across the continent following complaints about how programmatic advertising is bought and sold.

Through the real-time bidding process, a wide range of data is broadcast to multiple advertisers via an auction that uses this data to serve ads to online users in a fraction of a second.

In the UK, the ICO has highlighted particular concerns about the broadcast of "special-category data", which comprises sensitive information about, for example, people’s political opinions or sexual orientation.

Complainants, such as the anti-ad-tracking browser Brave, have described real-time bidding as a data breach that, by its very nature, cannot properly comply with GDPR because of the way data is processed.

Regulators are empowered to fine GDPR violators €20m (£17.9m) or 4% of the offending company’s annual turnover (whichever is highest).

Programmatic trading, in which online ads are bought automatically, grew by 33% in 2018 to reach €16.7bn. The vast majority of display ads (70%) are now traded programmatically, while video is now 50% programmatic.

Social media "dominates" programmatic, the IAB’s report said, and without this medium programmatic trading grew by 27% year on year to €5.5bn.

However, buy-side adoption of ads.txt, the text file used by online publishers to combat fraud, is "low", the IAB warned – a key factor holding back the adoption of programmatic trading.

The authors of the report said it was "surprising" that only 6% of advertisers and 26% of agencies were buying more than 81% of inventory verified by ads.txt, given significant concern about fraud and brand safety.

"Amongst publishers, ads.txt adoption is much higher, with 56% of them selling more than 81% of their inventory with an ads.txt file attached. This suggests that the ads.txt inventory exists, but more buyer education and awareness is needed," the report added.