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Research / Insights on current and emerging industry topics

The programmatic ad market benefits from standardization and transparency

January 30, 2023 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Two years ago, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) examined buy-side data to map the programmatic advertising supply chain from advertiser to publisher. Unfortunately, there were significant data quality and transparency issues, specifically the inability to identify 15% of ad spend to delivered impressions. Given these results and marketplace concerns, industry organizations created a task force and toolkit to help improve transparency in the programmatic process. Results from the second report, ISBA Programmatic supply chain transparency study 2022, show supply chain improvements.

The 2022 study examined industry progress using the toolkit developed to improve data access in the programmatic supply chain. The toolkit defines five important questions to lead the impression match rate audit process:

  1. Does the Audit Permission Letter (APL) accelerate data access?
  2. Does the Data Fields List (DFL) improve the data quality?
  3. Does improved data quality lead to improved impression match rates?
  4. Is the unknown delta reduced?
  5. Are there clear, actionable next steps?

The research is based on 1.3 billion impressions from September 1, 2022, to October 31, 2022, with the complete analysis taking place over nine months. Participants included 11 advertisers, 10 publishers, seven agencies, and six DSPs and SSPs, each.


The research identified a total of 104 million impressions served from ad tech vendors to publishers. Of the 104 million impressions, they matched 61 million impressions (58%) from the buy-side (DSP) to the sell-side (SSP). The match rate is nearly five times greater than the 12% in 2020. The latest report also track 65% of advertiser spending reaches publishers compared to 51% in 2020.

The higher-quality log-level data and data fields allow for a deterministic rule-based approach to matching the data sets with predetermined algorithms and calculations. Also contributing to higher match rates were private marketplaces, with an above 70% match rate (approximately 20% of matchable impressions). Notably, the 2022 study finds a distinct difference in the delta between open marketplaces (3%) and private marketplaces (<1%), showcasing the benefit of advertising with select auditable private marketplaces. Like 2020, the 2022 study focused on premium advertisers, agencies, tech vendors, and publishers which do not necessarily represent the broader programmatic ecosystem.


The toolkit was a prime contributor to data access improvements in 2022. The Audit Permission Letter (APL) allowed for more efficiency, cutting the study time from 18 months to 9 months. However, the full adoption of the APL letter varied among the participants.

Participants who provided log-level data for each impression showed significant improvement in data quality in the audit process. The Data Fields List (DFL) also improved the data quality. However, while ad tech suppliers offered approximately 80% of the data fields, there was a remaining 20% of data fields that needed to be shared. In addition, inconsistencies in some data formats, like names, currency, device type, etc., still prevail and need to be addressed.


Overall, the study recommends for advertisers, ad tech vendors and publishers to work with well-curated private marketplaces (PMPs), given their higher impression match rates.

Advertisers and agencies:

  • agree to separate display side platform seats for each advertiser,
  • appoint centralized contact for Audit Permission Letter approvals and extraction and reporting of buy-side log-level data, and
  • consider private supply chain audits chain every one to three years.

Ad tech vendors:

  • invest in the ability to filter, retain, and share log-level data, covering all of the Data Fields List,
  • agree on consistent taxonomies and naming conventions for ads.txt, and
  • drive adoption and use of ads.txt and sellers.json.


  • agree on consistent taxonomies and naming conventions for ads.txt, and
  • drive adoption and use of ads.txt and sellers.json,
  • consider working with fewer SSPs, and
  • consider private audits of them every 1 to 3 years.

The 2022 study demonstrates the improvement of data quality with the Toolkit usage. Developing data standards and protocols offers insight into supply path optimization. Further enhancements in data access and retention with the additional collaboration of data practices will make financial audits more common and successful.

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