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We’re excited to announce that the new Ad Product Taxonomy 2.0 is in public comment as of August 15th, 2023 and we’re eager to share how it will improve the programmatic ecosystem. 

We know that brand safety is a huge industry concern, but recognize that there are limited solutions today that help publishers and their users distinguish what ad content is appropriate for their audiences. It’s hugely important that publishers know what’s running alongside their content and have the ability to correctly block when needed. We’re hoping that this updated taxonomy made specifically for identifying advertiser products will make it easier for advertisers to identify themselves and help provide an important layer of data for publishers. 

What is changing?

As we’ve been constructing the Ad Product Taxonomy 2.0 we’ve made a fundamental shift to focus on products, not concepts. For example, within the existing Content Taxonomy alcohol is listed under Food & Drink. While it may be appropriate for a restaurant review or recipe blog to make reference to alcohol, an actual ad for an alcoholic product is very different and poses real issues for publishers. 

By focusing on the products themselves we were able to create a new taxonomy that better fits the important use case of a publisher trying to understand and manage inbound ad creatives. 

A similar focus for us has been adding simplicity wherever we can for ease of adoption. While the taxonomy features three tiers of granularity, we understand that not every demand partner is going to be able to populate data beyond Tier 1. In the new taxonomy’s architecture we kept a focus on differentiating Tier 1 categories that could cause brand safety risks for publishers. Tiers 2 and 3 feature more in-depth ‘nice to have’ information that can be used to better tailor ad content to fit the audience. 

An overview of the changes can be found here. Once public comment has been completed and Ad Product Taxonomy 2.0 is in production, a full change log will also be released on IAB Tech Lab’s new Taxonomy GitHub Repository

Why should publishers adopt?

Adoption of Ad Product Taxonomy 2.0 should be a high priority for all publishers and sellers. Support opens a number of benefits and protections not available with previous taxonomies by being able to more granularly identify, segment, and block incoming ads. 

One of the biggest benefits for increased granularity is that it allows publishers to adjust their existing blocking strategies to find net new pockets of demand. For example, a publisher might want to reject pharmaceutical ads, but still accept ads for over the counter medications or vitamins. This sort of category blocking hasn’t been supported in previous taxonomies and publishers have had to reject all related demand. By having granularly into the ad category, publishers would no longer need to leave that budget on the table. 

Even more important is improved brand safety. A better understanding of advertisers can help publishers craft an ad experience that is more in line with their audience and their values. Bad ad experiences are a leading cause of user churn, but can be prevented through more intentional ad blocking. 

Easier advertiser identification accomplished in significantly fewer rows means better monetization, better brand safety, and a better experience for end users. 

Why should buyers adopt?

Ad Product Taxonomy 2.0 provides benefits for advertisers as well. Similar to how additional fidelity in ad category blocking can help publishers/sellers, when fewer bids are unnecessarily blocked it helps demand partners widen their supply pool with new opportunities. More granularity also better opens the door for supply/demand collaboration in finding ads for products that better fits the content they’re running alongside. 

Ad Product Taxonomy 2.0 can also help advertisers with regulatory issues. In previous taxonomies you have cigars nested under hobbies and many advertisers had to use alternative medicine to represent marijuana/CBD products. Adoption of the new taxonomy allows advertisers to better identify products like alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, CBD, and pharmaceuticals to prevent requesting ads from inventory where they are prohibited. 

Next steps to test the Ad Product 2.0 taxonomy

While we think the new product taxonomy will lead to more relevant ads and better monetization when there is a match, here are some steps to ensure the clean rollout:

  1. Talk to demand partners about timeline for support
  2. Review the taxonomy to see how it fits with your policies and content
  3. Add new blocked categories to existing block lists – note APT 2.0 uses unique IDs so multiple blocking taxonomies can run side by side

We recommend buyers and sellers start having conversations with their partners to determine a timeline for support so they can plan appropriately. Adoption wont occur overnight and will require buy in from both supply and demand partners to make a difference. 
The Taxonomy and Mapping Working Group will now pivot to a mapping between the long deprecated Content Taxonomy 1.0 and Ad Product 2.0. More information can be found on the Taxonomy and Mapping Working Group page.

Gabe Thomas
VP, Product Strategy & Business Development
Safe Exchange