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The Time For The Over-the-Top Identifier for Advertising (OTT IFA) Is Now!

By Bennett Crumbling, J. Allen Dove, Chris Gordon, Courtney Rogers & Amit Shetty


How many times have you had this experience on your over-the-top video (OTT) device when you are watching a program and you see a commercial for the same car about 10 times in an hour? Yet, you already bought a car a few months ago…

Not only is this ad wasted on you, but it also negatively affects your experience watching the program – to the point that you are tempted to switch to a different program or stop watching completely. It creates a negative association and the advertiser who paid for this ad has clearly wasted their money.

Why did this happen? Mainly because the ecosystem around that program (the device,  the publisher, ad servers, etc.) was not able to handle certain requirements that help create a good ad experience –  specifically targeting and frequency capping. Targeting and frequency management require some means of identifying a unique user. This is especially difficult on platforms where advertisers cannot depend on cookies being available. This leaves marketers reliant on device identifiers and IP addresses for targeting consumers and managing frequency. There has been a need for a standardized, software-based advertising identifier for OTT that can be disabled and/or reset by the consumer and that can be passed through the supply chain in a similar fashion to the mobile Ad IDs that have existed for years for Android and Apple OS devices and which have helped grow and scale the mobile advertising industry.

The Over-the-Top Identifier for Advertising (OTT IFA) guidelines were released for public comment earlier this year, and are now available for download at In addition, we have an infographic to help understand the usage of the IFA and a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that should help any further questions around the IFA.

Guiding principles

The OTT Technical Working Group had a few goals we set out to accomplish with these guidelines:

  1. We wanted to provide a set of guidelines based on already existing best practices in the OTT space. We believe this will result in minimal disruption, while helping drive the industry towards the ideal state.
  2. We did not want to reinvent the wheel. We applied learnings from the mobile space, which has been using an IFA successfully for years. In addition, this should make it easier for advertisers to create and execute plans across all platforms.
  3. We ensured the guidelines provide guidance to all parties involved in handling the IFA, including Device Manufacturers, Publishers, Ad Servers, SSPs & DSPs.
  4. We wanted to help the ecosystem build out an IFA based solution in an incremental manner, so that an IFA can be supported even if the underlying device platform or a publisher doesn’t.
  5. We limited our directions to technical details, not policy details or user experience details. That said, the IFA does provide the building block to support consumer privacy.

Why is this good for consumers?

The IFA, when implemented correctly, addresses privacy concerns by supporting opt-outs and describing how user data should be handled in such scenarios. By providing an opt-out mechanism that follows the best practices established in mobile advertising, we can provide consumers the confidence that apps and measurement companies are handling their data correctly and respecting their privacy.

In addition, the IFA can help consumers by providing an improved user experience through elements such as personalization and frequency capping, resulting in a more pleasant viewing experience, across all OTT supply.

Why is this good for the ad ecosystem?

The biggest advantage for publishers is that it allows them to provide consumers a better user experience. In addition, it helps them protect their data while also allowing them to make their inventory more interesting to advertisers through improved targeting.

Similarly, from an advertisers’ perspective, the IFA helps ensure that their ad dollars are being spent on the right audience – and a wider audience – instead of being wasted by repeated views. That can now be done across multiple sources instead of being limited to a single publisher.

Additionally, the standardized nature of IFAs helps to open up third party audience measurement and verification across OTT devices. From a publisher perspective, this allows them to better understand their audience makeup and offer a “universal audience currency” to trade on. For advertisers, it can provide assurances that they are reaching the audiences they are targeting.

Path to adoption

Most of the major OTT platforms (including Amazon Fire, Android TV based devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku) provide support for OTT IFAs today. For these platforms, accessing the IFA and the corresponding Limit Ad Tracking value is typically straightforward. Ad platform vendors that offer SDKs (such as SSAI vendors, ad servers, SSPs) may help here by making it easier to surface the device level IFA and Limit Ad Tracking (lmt) opt-out values.

Where a platform does not yet provide native support for OTT IFAs, this would require additional development work by the publisher to implement a framework that generates a persistent IFA and provides the lmt opt-out. Again, ad platform vendors can potentially simplify this by providing this functionality as part of their SDKs.

Call to action

While the concept of an OTT IFA itself is not a new one, we are speaking for the IAB Tech Lab OTT Technical Working Group in calling for all the players in the OTT ad ecosystem to start using all  parameters defined in the guidelines correctly so that the IFA is used correctly and consistently. Device platforms should support the IFA consistently and make them available to publisher apps via APIs. Publishers should be using the IFA provided by the devices and only fall back to their own IFA if the device fails to provide one. Platforms need to provide user controls for notice and choice. Everyone should pass along the ifa_type and lmt metadata in all communications. DSPs and SSPs should respect and honor the lmt field. Only when these pieces fall in place will the use of the IFA really be effective and help address the core issues around targeting, frequency capping, attribution, and measurement facing the OTT advertising ecosystem.



Bennett Crumbling, Senior Director of TV, The Trade Desk

J. Allen Dove, Chief Technical Officer, Spotx

Chris Gordon, Vice President, Business DevelopmentXumo

Courtney Rogers, Product Manager, Telaria

Amit Shetty, Senior Director, Video & Audio Products, IAB Tech Lab