Index Exchange Brings the Ad Tech Supply Chain Out of the Shadows

Much-needed transparency between media buyers and sellers is coming

Index Exchange logo on a fist
Index Exchange is one of the first to adopt the IAB-proposed sellers.json standard. Index Exchange

The ad-tech giant Index Exchange has revealed a suite of changes meant to bring some much-needed transparency to the marketplace.

The offerings include buy- and sell-side auditing tools, as well as new features added onto the auction process to keep buyers from overspending. These rollouts go hand-in-hand with the company’s recent adoption of sellers.json and SupplyChain object, two IAB-set standards that allow buyers to verify the sellers they’re working with, while also giving those same buyers a window into which parties are selling or reselling a particular bid request.

Index Exchange is one of the few major players to adopt the sellers.json standard since it was rolled out in full this past July, and taken with these new rollouts, the company is signifying, loud and clear, that it has nothing to hide—a rarity in the ad-tech ecosystem.

“It’s an ethos that we’ve been embracing since we have some really high-end publisher clients,” explained Michael McNeeley, Index Exchange’s vice president of product. “We work with really high-end publishers that have good supply, and we didn’t feel that hiding who we worked with, or hiding how they were sourced through the exchange, was something to hide, so we kind of leaned into it.”

For the first offering, Index Exchange offered an update to give its clients a window into impression-level data from the auction process, using its proprietary—and free—Client Audit Log Service, or CAL. Though these granular metrics were available to buy siders on Index Exchange’s platform, the update will allow any party in the supply chain to see them, including publishers.

These updates could be a welcome change for the tail end of the ad tech supply chain, which has historically been needlessly convoluted.

“The more transparency from intermediaries to publishers, the better,” said Jason Kint, CEO of the publisher-led trade association Digital Content Next. “The fastest way for ad tech intermediaries to build that trust is creating more transparency for the publishers they serve—particularly in how they leverage publishers’ data for profits.”

McNeeley summed up the offering as a “receipt for every transaction” that happens on the company’s platform. This allows for a lot more information about each bid to be crammed into each report, rather than relying on a document that relies on broad swaths of data in an attempt to satisfy the maximum number of buyers and sellers. Now, both sides will have the ability to run their own metrics and analyses based on the specific data they’re interested in.

“We feel that these sorts of insights are really important for everyone that’s transacting on the exchange,” he added. “Transparency on every impression is something that the industry as a whole has been marching towards—we just felt that both sides of the transaction needed access to the same information.”

While the CAL update is meant to bring more transparency to the market, Index Exchange also announced some technical changes meant to streamline and simplify the auction process, including a query-per-second management system that takes auction competitiveness and price-to-win rate into account, to get advertisers the biggest bang for their advertising bucks.

The change will eliminate some of the hassles and headaches that can come with the auctioneering process, McNeeley explained. “Ad auctions won’t be dropped for technical reasons,” he added. “DSPs can listen to more supply, in more regions, that its advertisers want to listen to.”

@swodinsky Shoshana Wodinsky is Adweek's platforms reporter, where she covers the financial and societal impacts of major social networks. She was previously a tech reporter for The Verge and NBC News.