ads.txt (Authorized Digital Sellers) is an IAB project aiming at eliminating counterfeit and unauthorized inventory. Its main goal is to fight against domain spoofing: buyers can verify if the seller (who sends the publisher URL in bid requests) is legitimate and authorized to sell inventory originating from this publisher domain. The idea is to give publishers more control over their inventory and to help buyers ensure they are purchasing authentic ad space.
How does it work? Publishers host a public text file named ads.txt where they declare each authorized seller. Buyers crawl publisher Ads.txt files on a regular basis and maintain a database which stores lists of authorized sellers for each publisher. They then cross-check the information received in bid requests to detect the fraudulent ones.
The market is increasingly adopting ads.txt technology. In the interest of Quality, Smart AdServer is advocating all its publishers implement the ads.txt file on their website. In this blog post, Chief Quality Officer Gorka Zarauz sheds some light on Ads.txt and how publishers can make the most of it.
What’s the logic behind ads.txt?
Ads.txt tries to solve one of the most pressing problems in the industry today: the domain spoofing fraud. The implementation will ensure that those actors who don’t add value to the advertising chain, will disappear. Middlemen will take less of the margin, and both publishers and advertisers will see an increase in the value of their investment and content. DSPs, SSPs and publishers and everyone in our industry need to move forward with ads.txt so we can get “bad guys” out of equation.
Do you have any tips for publishers?
Yes: take action now! Once we enter in the Q4 craziness, there is a sense of urgency that arises. It’s best to get going now and make sure ads.txt is properly integrated before it’s too late. ads.txt is very easy for publishers to implement, but it’s a bit harder for a DSP. It will be up to Publishers and SSPs to put some pressure on DSPs and advocate for this implementation in their technologies.
Work closely with your SSP(s) and resellers: it’s important for them to know when a Publisher implements ads.txt. More important, publishers need to make sure their partners stand by them during the process to ensure that the inventory is being sold only by the selected resellers.
Make sure buyers recognize publishers’ inventory and commitment. Publishers will lose out in the end if buyers don’t identify the inventory as a good content to include their ads. If that happens to any publisher, they should reach out to the reseller(s) and buyers to solve the problem as soon as possible.
Are there any disadvantages for publishers?
I guess the right question is, “Are there any disadvantages for being transparent in the marketplace?”. For those publishers who aren’t transparent, yes there are a lot of disadvantages and revenue loss.
Even though it’s true that DSPs haven’t implemented ads.txt at a full scale yet, once they get all the industry push, especially from publishers, they’ll begin to do so. But there’s no a disadvantage for a publisher to have it implemented right away.
Ads.txt isn’t the solution to the ad fraud problem. Some in the industry are criticizing it because it solves one problem and not all quality issues the ecosystem has today. But we need to start somewhere to solve this problem, nobody learned to run without walking first.
What happens if publishers don’t implement ads.txt?
It’s too early to say if all publishers in the market will lose revenue if they choose not to adopt ads.txt. However, once all the major DSPs start taking ads.txt into account, industry standards will change. When buyers take a look at a site and do not find the ads.txt file, they’ll think twice before purchasing a publisher’s inventory. Down the road, they’ll decide that the safest bet is for them to buy impressions only where they see an Ads.txt file.
Basically, if publishers want to continue monetizing their sites, they’ll will be forced to do adopt ads.txt. Moreover, the entire digital advertising industry benefits when transparency is increased, and domain spoofing and fraud are eliminated.
Smart AdServer remains committed to combating fraud and ensuring the highest Quality marketplace for buyers and sellers. If our industry fails to improve the ad-tech ecosystem, we risk eroding the trust of buyers, which hurts everyone. We’re eager to hear your own perspective. You may reach our Quality Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.