Climb the ladder to success ads.txt style

10/04 By Mike Kim

As one of the new kids on the block, ads.txt acts as a building block to combat fraud, and more specifically domain spoofing, within the programmatic supply chain. What does this mean for publishers, advertisers, and data providers? While still early, adoption of ads.txt is off to a strong start and will lead to more transparency for the overall digital advertising ecosystem.

So, what is ads.txt? Developed by the IAB Tech Lab, ads.txt is an index that publishers can post to their domains in order to identify authorized sellers. Programmatic buyers can read ads.txt files to screen for fake or misrepresented inventory, while publishers, or their re-sellers, can embed these files to mark themselves as legitimate sellers of the specified inventory. Given today’s climate, it has become  increasingly important for brands, agencies, platforms, and data providers to work together with transparency to confidently invest in the digital advertising space – especially as the programmatic industry continues to grow.

In August, MarTech Today reported that ads.txt has been adopted by 34 of the top 500 publications. CBS, ESPN, and The New York Times are among a few of the big names that have decided to implement this solution.

The good news it that the main use case for ads.txt is a  straightforward one. Demand-side platforms (DSPs) crawl publishers’ ads.txt files to confirm that the seller they are buying from, if not the publisher direct, is a verified one. For example, if a publisher has declared multiple authorized sellers and resellers, the DSP will filter out any impressions coming from any entity not on that list. So ads.text is simply filtering on open exchange or aggregated private marketplace (PMP). Limitations could occur with resellers, but there is always slightly increased risk the more partners an impression passes through.

While ads.txt places a significant amount of responsibility onto the publisher keep lists up-to-date, it also requires a non-trivial amount of development work and effort for a DSP. DSPs will need to crawl publishers’ ads.txt files and align their programmatic bidding accordingly. The effectiveness of ads.txt relies heavily on the wide adoption of this format by the ecosystem. Initial signs are positive with some of the industries largest DSPs, like Google DBM, announcing their move forward with this initiative.

As ads.txt adoption increases, IAS will continue to evaluate how we can incorporate this into our verification, optimization, and analytics solutions for both publishers and advertisers. Today we see this as a potential for ads.txt signals to be:

  • Incorporated within IAS verification capabilities to provide reporting that uncovers authorized versus unauthorized impressions
  • Leverage as an additional layer of protection within our pre-bid ad fraud protection
  • Included within our publisher-dedicated UI to streamline the workflow of enabling or certifying media resellers

Overall, it’s great to see the industry moving towards transparency and developing tools that give all sides of the ecosystem the power to optimize towards success.