Interactive Advertising Bureau
02 April 2020

Programmatic Advertising Code of Conduct - ensuring best practice and transparency in programmatic advertising

The Programmatic Code of Conduct (CoC) V2.0 is gaining traction across Europe. Originating in Germany and developed by the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW / IAB Germany), it has  now been implemented in Austria, Switzerland and Poland.  IAB Europe’s Programmatic Trading Committee (PTC) has been reviewing  the different national Programmatic Codes of Conducts (CoC) to see how they help both local markets and industry stakeholders to enhance programmatic trading standards and practices as well as to consider the need for a pan-European CoC. 

IAB Europe and key members of the PTC spoke to BVDW, IAB Poland and a range of signatories to get their perspective. These included:

  • Sascha Dolling, Chair of the Programmatic Code of Conduct Working Group, BVDW / IAB Germany
  • Małgorzata Walendziewska, Special Programs Manager, IAB Poland
  • Ekkehardt Schlottbohm, Regional Director Central Europe at PubMatic
  • Bartosz Malinowski, VP CEE, APAC & MEA at Adform
  • Joerg Vogelsang, Regional Managing Director, DACH and CEE, Index Exchange
  • Elżbieta Kondzioła, Online Sales Director, Lovemedia 
  • Friederike Pries, Marketing Manager, Integral Ad Science

David Goddard, Chair, IAB Europe Programmatic Trading Committee and Senior Director, Business Development EMEA, DoubleVerify said: “It is encouraging to see increasing adoption of the national Code of Conduct initiatives. Ensuring transparency and a level playing field is key to IAB Europe’s Programmatic Trading Committee and we believe the Code is a massive step in the right direction to achieve best practice in programmatic advertising alongside initiatives such as our Supply Chain Transparency Guide.”


Programmatic Advertising Code of Conduct Q&A

What is the Programmatic Code of Conduct?
The Programmatic Advertising Code of Conduct (CoC) was initially developed by BVDW (IAB Germany) and includes a set of rules for all stakeholders in the programmatic supply chain; Advertisers, Agencies, Demand Side Platforms, Sell Side Platforms, Sales Houses/Publishers, Data Management Platforms, Data Providers and Verification Vendors. Now in V2.0 the aim of the CoC is to improve transparency in programmatic advertising by defining a set of criteria and rules for each of the above stakeholders to adhere to.  The signatories agree to comply with the relevant set of criteria and rules depending on their company type. 

Perspectives from the markets

How has the CoC helped your market?
Sascha Dolling, Chair of the Programmatic Code of Conduct Working Group, BVDW / IAB Germany, explained: “The Code of Conduct V 2.0 defines a minimum commitment by each type of market participant. All signing parties comply with the defined practices and hold these standards up to their contractual partners.

The objective is to ensure transparency resulting in sustainable professionalism regarding operations and standards and thus trust. First and foremost, the Code of Conduct has helped to comprehensively depict the programmatic value chain and to disclose the working methods of all market partners. With its numerous signatures in a second step, the Code of Conduct revealed a map of programmatic market partners operating in Germany with the common goal of ensuring greater transparency.

The Code of Conduct ensures that the quality and transparency level is maintained and continuously improved across the market.”

Małgorzata Walendziewska, Special Programs Manager, IAB Poland added: “The Programmatic Code of Conduct V 2.0 was launched in Poland in August 2019. It can be signed by any party  who actively participates in the programmatic ecosystem. 

It’s still very early days for us  but introducing the CoC was very positively received by the market. Considering the current size and pace of growth of programmatic advertising in Poland, we believe that the initiative will enable  us to build a healthier, more transparent and fairer marketplace for all stakeholders.”

What are the key strengths of the CoC?
Sascha said: “The key strength of the Code of Conduct is its binding nature. Whilst the companies are subject to a voluntary commitment, if a violation becomes known, there is a board of complaints elected from representatives of all market areas, which jointly discusses the violation and handles the complaint in a regulated process. This ensures that the Code of Conduct does not gather dust in the drawers of the responsible marketing manager and becomes a  “toothless tiger”.”

Małgorzata added: “The Code sets out separate standards and practices for all participants in the programmatic chain who undertake to comply with specific criteria and rules in the area for which they are responsible. The CoC V 2.0 was created by the industry experts so both construction and its content corresponds with the current market and addresses real challenges for all stakeholders - we believe this is the key strength of the CoC.”

What is your opinion on Local vs Pan-regional CoC?
Małgorzata explained: “IAB Poland believes both local and pan-regional initiatives are important and necessary. Pan-regional CoC’s might set the directions but it would be impossible to include all local specifics and for examples to be compliant with all countries regulations. Local initiatives might also have little to no impact on the global players. That’s why both local and pan-regional standards can and should complement each other.”

Sascha added: “There are standards and definitions that apply globally, but in addition to these, country-specific circumstances have also been established in various pan-regional countries. In order to take these into account and to continue to pay the necessary attention to local peculiarities, it makes sense to anchor these local conditions at least in a part of a Code of Conduct.”

What challenges have you faced or do you foresee?
Sascha explained that in Germany: “The biggest challenge was to bring together representatives from all market sectors to discuss the commitment rules and find a common denominator for these rules. In addition, it requires the commitment of all market partners to work continuously with the CoC and to ensure that it is adhered to, so that it remains a living practice.”

Małgorzata noted that in Poland: “The challenge that we have encountered but also expected is encouraging more companies to become signatories of the CoC. As the document contains many, specific rules and criterias, each company needs to carefully review, verify, understand and approve them. It's a process that requires time and understanding but we believe more and more companies will decide to take this step - not only because it's a confirmation of their honesty but also because it's a real contribution to creating a better digital advertising environment.” 

Perspectives from the signatories

How has the CoC helped your market?
Joerg Vogelsang, Regional Managing Director, DACH and CEE, Index Exchange explained: Programmatic is a fast-changing industry, one that’s under constant scrutiny. By setting clear quality standards – as well as measures to enforce such standards – the CoC V 2.0 is helping to bring greater transparency and accountability to local markets, thus benefiting buyers, sellers, and tech partners across the region. Ultimately, the higher the standards we set – and the more ardently we adhere to them – the greater the likelihood we will have of reducing bad practices (be they ill intentioned or accidental). As a result, we’ll see greater growth in the long term, in and outside of our markets.”

What does signing the CoC mean for your company?
Ekkehardt Schlottbohm, Regional Director Central Europe at PubMatic explained: “Regulation is needed, not only to create trust in programmatic advertising among publishers and advertisers, but to support the active participants in digital media sales and buying to develop common ground from which to build high-quality and secure solutions – and to accelerate the growth of programmatic trading within the market and to establish a sustainable economy that can compete on a global level.

Signing the BVDW CoC V 2.0 in a time when programmatic is becoming more standardised in the German Market, is a signal to the market that we as an SSP support the requirements that advertisers need.”

Bartosz Malinowski, VP CEE, APAC & MEA at Adform said: “The Programmatic Code of Conduct  V 2.0 formalises the approach that we already have as a company. I am happy that IAB made the effort to standardise and promote the Code of Conduct for our industry.” 

Elżbieta Kondzioła, Online Sales Director, Lovemedia explained that: “As a company operating in the online advertising industry, it is important to be part of an initiative ensuring constant development of security in the programmatic ecosystem.”

How does it help your company?
Elżbieta believes that: “The signing of the code provides our business partners with the certainty that we run safe and quality campaigns. The whole process of joining the initiative was simple and did not involve the need to introduce additional changes in the organisation.  I am also very pleased that as the head of the programmatic group at IAB Poland I was able to actively participate in the introduction of the code on the Polish market.”

Bartosz said: “Being a signatory of the CoC creates more awareness about Adform as a company and a legitimate player of the digital advertising ecosystem.”

Ekkehardt explained that for PubMatic: “Being an active participant of the first CoC is really insightful for us as an international business to really understand the local need and align ourselves with those. We can now see that some of the big buyers are creating their own CoCs, as a business we are well prepared to sign those due to our own high standards already in place.”

Friederike Pries, Marketing Manager, Integral Ad Science  believes that: “Signing the CoC V 2.0 helped us as an international technology provider to showcase that we are supporting the German views and standards. It helps us to back up our products and measurements.”

What industry wide benefits have you witnessed the CoC bring?
Joerg said: “Our industry is fast-changing and it’s also incredibly nuanced. With so many players involved and shifts taking place, it can be difficult to understand exactly what measures should be taken to ensure we’re operating as transparently and efficiently as possible. The CoC helps clear up that confusion. Beyond ensuring everyone is adhering to the same standards – and thus levelling the playing field on which we’re operating – the CoC also helps remove uncertainty by stating clear best practices for all parties. It’s educating players on what needs to be done while also holding us all accountable, solidifying the goals we should all be working toward.”

Bartosz believes that: “The CoC puts transparency and user experience in the spotlight and reiterates the importance of relevant and non-intrusive online advertising. I believe this will lead to higher campaign effectiveness, less user irritation and an ad tech ecosystem that is clear of shady and corrupt players.”

Ekkehardt said: “The CoC was a huge step forward in making Programmatic more transparent. Signing the first CoC increased the relevance of Programmatic within digital and allowed marketers to have a better understanding of their media spend. The great achievement is that the entire ecosystem worked collaboratively together and agreed on the chain of custody together. These are tough negotiations, because clear responsibilities had to be created in order to strengthen programmatic as a channel. The CoC has also been adopted by other countries such as Austria and Switzerland and further developed with V 2.0.”

What is your opinion on a Local vs Pan-regional Code of Conduct?
Joerg said: The larger this initiative, the better – both geographically and in the number of partners involved. That said, it makes sense to start on a smaller, more local scale and grow this accordingly; it’s a more pragmatic approach. Germany has created a solid foundation, from which countries like Austria, Switzerland, and Poland have been able to build and expand these efforts. It’s a huge undertaking to make this a pan-regional, European initiative, but the more markets involved, the clearer and more accountable our entire ecosystem can become.”

Friederike explained: “IAS supports local CoCs because we want to provide the best service for regional clients including specific needs and requests. However a pan-regional CoC can support global campaigns and should be seen as an overall codex for the measurement of key metrics.”

Could the local CoCs be broadened to be a Pan-European code?
David Goddard said: “The Programmatic Trading Committee has discussed and considered developing a pan-European CoC but at this time feels the Codes are more appropriate on a local level to ensure national regulations and practices are taken into account. The Committee is exploring how to further enhance the Code of Conduct initiative on a European level. ” 


Please find out more about signing up for the Code of Conduct V2.0 in Germany here.

Please find out more about signing up for the Code of Conduct V2.0 in Poland here.

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