The Publisher Brief: OpenRTB 2.6 and the Addressable Future of CTV

In April 2022, the RTB Project announced that the latest version of the protocol – OpenRTB 2.6 – is now ready for implementation across the programmatic ecosystem. Here’s what publishers, especially those in the CTV space, need to know. 

The Headlines 

  • Announced in December 2021 and now available for implementation, version 2.6 of the OpenRTB (ORTB) specification is the latest iteration of the API protocol which forms the backbone of the programmatic industry. 

  • ORTB 2.6 brings significant changes to the way bid requests are managed, especially in the CTV space. Support for dynamic pod bidding solves long-running issues faced by video buyers and sellers. 

  • The addition of the Content Channel and Content Network fields to the official OpenRTB specification opens the door to new contextual targeting options, and paves the way for better CTV addressability in the future. 

What is the OpenRTB 2.6 specification?

Since its inception in November 2010 by The Real-Time Bidding (RTB) Project (formerly known as the OpenRTB Consortium), the OpenRTB protocol has become the industry standard for buying and selling media programmatically. 

Over the years, the specification has been updated periodically to bring new functionality to reflect the changing programmatic landscape. In April 2022, the first new update since December 2016 was announced as being ready for implementation by IAB Tech Lab. 

There is something of an elephant in the room, however, in the shape of OpenRTB 3.0, which has been ready to implement as part of the OpenMedia specification since 2018. The delay in adoption of ORTB 3.0 – and the reason why ORTB 2.6 exists at all – is that the majority of the programmatic industry still relies on the 2.X spec, likely because the move to 3.0 requires significant technical work on the implementation side. But the hope is that 2.6 is a step towards mass industry adoption for the 3.0 standard.

So, with OpenRTB 2.6, the focus is squarely on CTV auctions, addressing certain functionality which wasn’t previously available through either OpenRTB or its video-centric cousin, VAST (Video Ad Serving Template)

The full 91-page specification for ORTB 2.6 is available if you have some time to kill, but if you just want the highlights, we’ve got you covered. 

A new standard for Ad Pod bidding

The idea of Ad Pods is nothing new for CTV – we’ve all experienced a bundle of ads served during breaks in video content. 

But with ORTB 2.6, the goal is to solve long-running issues which occur due to the nature of CTV auctions taking place via traditional programmatic mechanics. In the past, ad slots were filled individually, even within a Structured Ad Pod, so the demand side didn’t have visibility of the entire pod runtime. This led to issues with ad duplication and a lack of competitive separation. 

With OpenRTB 2.6 and the concept of Dynamic Ad Pods, bid requests sent by the publisher can now include the full commercial break duration, giving demand partners the opportunity to respond with multiple ads of differing lengths which best matches their CPM goals. They can also include a minimum and maximum length for each ad. So, for example, a 90-second commercial break can now be filled by three 30-second ads, six 15-second ads, or any combination of ad durations within the set limits. 

CPM floors by-the-second 

One big factor which sets CTV apart from traditional Display advertising is the matter of time. 

Video ads of different lengths naturally command different CPMs, so ORTB 2.6 is introducing a similar concept for bid floors. Using the new mincpmpersec field, publishers can now set their floor rate for each individual second of air time within a Dynamic Ad Pod, making it easier to accurately price and value their CTV inventory. 

There is an existing bidfloor field which publishers have been able to use, but this applies to the entire ad slot, making monetization less precise. With the new by-the-second approach to bid floors in ORTB 2.6, buyers now have much more flexibility in how they bid – and publishers can tap into the true value of their CTV supply. 

Contextual CTV and the future of addressability

Ask anyone who’s active in the CTV space and they’ll tell you that one of the biggest challenges with the format is addressability. While Display advertising is facing its own problems with identity, the CTV boom is demanding solutions of its own – and OpenRTB 2.6 offers a step towards an addressable future.

CTV pipes often rely on Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (vMVPDs), meaning that it’s very difficult for media buyers to pin down exactly where a bid request is coming from, because they all come from the same source. This has led to concerns about brand safety as well as targeting effectiveness.

OpenRTB 2.6 aims to ease these issues with the addition of two contextual fields to the official specification: Content Channel and Content Network. Publishers who choose to include these fields in their bid requests will give buyers the chance to better understand the type of – or at least the context of – the content their target audience is consuming, and thus deliver better, more relevant, ads. 

If you need guidance on updating your ad tech stack for OpenRTB 2.6, or if you’re new to The MediaGrid and looking for new ways to maximize your revenue, just get in touch with The MediaGrid team today.

Major Cruise Line Leverages Search Intent Data to Drive Bookings Efficiencies
April 22, 2022
Programmatic Primer: A Guide to Ads.txt
April 22, 2022