The IAB has taken a leading role in the fight against fraud in digital advertising. Their first standard, ads.txt, helps prevent bad actors from tricking buyers into purchasing fake impressions. Available on desktop and mobile web, it lets publishers declare which companies they authorize to sell their digital inventory and, in turn, works towards improving transparency.

Its follow up, ads.cert, is a digital signature on a piece of ad inventory that can be verified against a shared key. It validates the information that passes between the buyer and seller at every stage of the digital ad supply chain, and stops fraudsters from tampering with a publisher’s inventory.

Take a look at our visual representation of ads.txt and ads.cert — “Fighting Fraud with Standards: Ads.txt and Ads.cert Explained”.

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ads.txt ads.cert

Infographic Text

Ads.txt —> Authenticates Sellers
Ensures only verified partners are selling a publisher’s inventory

Declaration: publisher declares authorized partners

Supply Side Verification: ads.txt crawler makes sure ads.txt file is in place
YES, bid request sent
NO, bid request not sent

Demand Side Verification: after bid request, DSP crawls ads.txt data to verify SSP1 is an authorized partner.

Ads.cert —> Authenticates Inventory
Ensures inventory is real and unaltered

Key and Signature sent: SSP builds a bid request, generates a signature and attaches it to the bid request.
Signature Cross Check: DSPs use public key to generate authorized signature and cross check it.

Partner is authorized to sell.
Inventory is authentic and unmodified.

All the players in ad tech are now well aware that the resulting lack of transparency surrounding ad and ad inventory quality is taking its toll on the industry. The creation of ads.txt and ads.cert prove that everyone has finally come together to take a stand against fraud.

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