Thought Leadership

Principles for a better Programmatic Marketplace: An Open Letter to Advertisers and Publishers 

October 17, 2018
By Rubicon Project, OpenX, Pubmatic, Sovrn, SpotX, Telaria

Programmatic advertising is a powerful system that enables extremely precise, data-driven advertising at scale. Yet, it hasn’t reached its full potential because it has been too complex and at times too opaque. To maximize participation in programmatic advertising, the industry’s leading sell-side exchanges have come together to adopt a framework of Principles and commitments that promote clarity and trust for every participant in the market.

Together, we are committed to unleashing the full potential of programmatic advertising. Advertisers, publishers, and their representatives need and deserve transparent marketplace Principles, which clearly explain how the market operates, reduce friction, ensure quality, and increase value for buyers and sellers.

There are three core Principles at the foundation of all effective markets: Efficiency, Transparency, and Fair-market. We agree not only to these broad principals, but to the measurable and verifiable actions necessary to build the long-term trust programmatic advertising must have to grow and thrive. Specifically, we the undersigned companies agree to a new direction—a new deal for advertisers and publishers alike—to form the foundation of the future of digital consumer engagement. The components include the following:

1. Efficiency: Efficiency reduces transaction costs by eliminating waste and fraud.

  • Total Quality Assurance
    • 100% of ad creatives scanned for malware and other quality issues
    • 100% of all domains and apps reviewed for brand safety, ad count, refresh rates, and audience quality
    • 100% of ad requests scanned and filtered in real time for invalid traffic
    • Fully certified by ​TAG​ (Trustworthy Accountability Group), including validation by an independent 3rd party
  • Standardized Formats
    • All advertisements compliant with the Better Ads Standards developed by the Coalition for Better Ads. For more information, see​ ​www.betterads.org​.
  • Elimination of Infrastructure Waste
    • For each unique ad request from a publisher for a specific ad format, auction type, or Deal ID, an exchange will send a maximum of one unique bid request to the DSP

2. Transparency:​ Transparency establishes clear business practices necessary to maintain trust among participants in the supply chain.

  • Fee Transparency
    • No hidden fees of any kind. One clear fee assessed per auction, with fee arrangements made explicit to the party being charged
  • Fully Auditable Supply Chain
    • Auditability of supply source, requests, winning bids, impressions, and clicks through every step in the supply chain
  • Transparent Change Notification
    • Any changes or modifications to marketplace design that may alter performance for buyers are clearly communicated in advance of going live within a reasonable and agreed upon timeframe

3. Fair-Market:​ Fair-market principles establish clear and unambiguous ground rules that balance the objectives of all marketplace participants.

  • Clear Auction Rules
    • All bid requests will specify the auction type (e.g., whether the auction is 1st or 2nd price)
  • No Undisclosed Business Arrangements
    • No undisclosed business arrangements (such as kickbacks or rebates) that could unnaturally influence spend away from fair market values and principles
  • No Biased Auction Mechanics
    • Actions such as non-transparent bid-caching or proprietary container preferencing that could undermine the integrity of the fair auction are forbidden

These core Principles and their underlying measurable and verifiable metrics form the foundation of a new way  forward to navigate the increasingly fragmented media environment advertisers face today. The undersigned are committed to making their exchanges compliant with these Principles. They give publishers and buyers  alike complete confidence in a fair, transparent, and verifiable programmatic marketplace. We agree to hold  ourselves to these standards, and to hold the broader programmatic marketplace accountable to these  Principles. We must be good stewards of the advertising dollars we have been entrusted with.

Agreeing to and becoming compliant with this set of Principles is just the first step. We are committed to  working closely with TAG (Trustworthy Accountability Group) to form a new compliance and accountability  certification based on the above Principles. Publishers, buyers, and their representatives can confidently rely  upon this certification to make their programmatic advertising decisions.

Trust is the most important component of any business relationship. Trust is earned, and we are committed to  building a lasting, high-quality, and trusted programmatic marketplace for the future of advertising.


Michael Barrrett, CEO, Rubicon Project


Tim Cadogan, CEO, OpenX


Rajeev Goel, CEO, Pubmatic


Walter Knapp, CEO, Sovrn


Mike Shehan, CEO, SpotX


Mark Zagorski, CEO, Telaria