The Digital Advertising Industry’s Buttonwood Agreement: A Call for a New Set of Open Standards


It could be argued that capital formation in the United States – the engine of the country’s rise to global economic leadership – began under a buttonwood tree outside 68 Wall Street in New York City on May 17, 1792. On that day, 24 competing stock brokers signed the Buttonwood Agreement creating the New York Stock Exchange, a governing body of brokers to establish guidelines for the purchase and sale of public stock.

Up until the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement, there had been no universal standards for the buying and selling of stock. The Buttonwood Agreement brought together rivals in a marketplace who understood they’d all have a better chance to prosper if there were standards governing their commerce.

Similarly, in today’s digital advertising world, there are few shared standards for the purchase and sale of digital media. It would seem ludicrous today if anyone who wanted to buy shares of stock had to follow conflicting rules set by each individual company. But that’s currently the case in online advertising.

The time has come for our own “Digital Buttonwood.” Today, a consortium of leading companies in the digital advertising industry is announcing the formation of OpenRTB, a group created to improve ad technology onboarding and integration through the creation of open, flexible, safe, and consistent industry standards. By creating an industry standard, OpenRTB will not only allow its members to prosper, but will ignite industry growth that’s now held back by the lack of standards.

The initial working group is made up of technology leaders from Demand Side Platforms (DSPs), which represent the needs of advertisers, and Sell Side Platforms  (SSPs), which represent the needs of publishers. The initial group includes AdMeld, DataXu, MediaMath, PubMatic, the Rubicon Project, and Turn.

OpenRTB’s first initiative is block list standardization:

The goal of the block list standardization working group is to standardize a protocol to eliminate the shortcomings that make managing publisher and advertiser blocklists the labor-intensive and error-prone process in the real-time bidding (“RTB”) ecosystem. OpenRTB is dedicated to minimizing this impediment, so the RTB ecosystem can reduce operating costs, spur liquidity, and enhance profitability of the digital advertising ecosystem for advertisers and publishers.

For SSPs, this block list standardization means higher CPM’s because DSP’s can incorporate more accurate filters in their bidders to avoid bidding on inventory they cannot win, resulting in a higher percentage of valid bids per impression. For DSPs, this means more efficient ad delivery because the platforms can stop bidding on inventory blocked by publisher restrictions.

Version 1.0 of the protocol specification can be found at, an open source community now open for public input and consumption.

Companies and professionals interested in participating in OpenRTB are warmly invited to contact Open RTB plans to expand its roster of participating technologists as it moves through additional open standards initiatives, including API standards, best practices for network management, privacy enforcement, creative labels, bid requests, and performance reporting, among others.

Just as the 1792 Buttonwood Agreement helped build the world’s largest and most powerful stock exchange that facilitated the velocity of commerce in the United States and around the world, it’s our hope that OpenRTB will aid the growth of exchange-traded digital media into the most widely used advertising medium and facilitate the velocity of monetizing the Internet for advertisers and publishers alike. Join us!

Quotes from our founding partners


“Agreeing on a set of standards will enable all of us to streamline the real-time media buying process and create a stronger foundation on which to build future industry innovations,” said Bill Simmons, chief technology officer at DataXu who is leading the organization of OpenRTB. “It’s critical that we join to overcome these common technical challenges if as a group we wish to see the industry realize its full potential of delivering superior marketing results to agencies and brands.”


“Standardizing RTB blocklists is a win for both sides of the transaction,” said Michael Barrett, CEO of AdMeld. “Not only will it help SSPs more effectively reduce channel conflict for their publishers, but it will boost CPMs because buyers will be less likely to bid on inventory they cannot win. That means more valid bids per impression, reduced operating expenses for the DSPs and more efficient ad delivery all around.”


“OpenRTB is a sterling example of what can be achieved when industry leaders align to solve a common problem,” said Marta Martinez, CMO of MediaMath. “This is a case where the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts and where each company’s unique experience, insights and perspectives will coalesce to create important, far reaching best practices.”



OpenRTB is a group dedicated to working together in order to expedite innovation around RTB, and PubMatic is proud to be a part of it,” said Jeanne Houweling, Vice President, Demand Partner Solutions. The standards this consortium works to establish and advance today will benefit the entire real-time advertising ecosystem of tomorrow.


the Rubicon Project

“As more and more publishers look to RTB as a key source of demand for their inventory, it’s critical to have the right standards in place to minimize friction between the buy and sell sides,” said Ben Trenda, VP of REVV Marketplace Development at the Rubicon Project. “As one of the top sources for real-time biddable inventory in the online advertising ecosystem, we’re focused on building next-generation technology that empowers publishers to address the opportunities and challenges in the industry, as opposed to reinventing the integration wheel with each new real-time demand source we bring into the REVV Marketplace. Publishers benefit when we reduce friction for buyers, so we were keen to be a part of the OpenRTB Consortium.”


“Digital innovation is occurring at a rapid speed and the industry needs standards to keep pace,” said Bill Demas, CEO & President of Turn. “This unified initiative fosters trust in RTB media buying for publishers, and ultimately benefits those agencies and advertisers looking to leverage biddable inventory to target audiences at scale.”