Last May, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab introduced Ads.txt, a move designed to help buyers identify which exchanges are authorized to sell publishers’ inventory. The stated mission of the initiative is to:
“Increase transparency in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. Ads.txt stands for Authorized Digital Sellers and is a simple, flexible and secure method that publishers and distributors can use to publicly declare the companies they authorize to sell their digital inventory.”
So, are they attacking a genuine problem? The answer, in a nutshell, is a strong yes, and we believe they are tackling it in a legitimate way. That’s why we’ve been supporting this initiative out of the gate.
WHY ADS.TXT IS IMPORTANT
The adoption of Ads.txt brings further quality to the programmatic environment and will bolster
advertisers’ confidence that they are buying verified inventory from an authorized source.
Advertisers will receive strong returns on their advertising buys by continually demanding their ads are served on highly viewable domains and in apps, all with minimal amounts of non-human traffic. Ads.txt is an important and implementable solution that’s available today, and Simpli.fi supports any move to help verify authenticity and create a more trusted marketplace.
Without safeguards in place to protect advertisers, there is a subset of counterfeit domain spoofing that can result in unauthorized reselling. For example, programmatic buyers who intend to purchase inventory from ESPN, CNN or some other highly reputable site may actually be buying advertising space on websites that don’t exist or that the seller doesn’t have access to.
Fraud levels are believed to fluctuate wildly, making it difficult to quantify how much inventory is misrepresented or the impact, but the sophistication and scale of fraudulent operations is only recently coming to light. Methbot, as one prominent example, was found to have spoofed 6,111 premium domains and 250,267 distinct URLs, generating an estimated $3 million to $5 million in revenue per day for its operators. According to an article in AdExchanger, the volume of misrepresented, fraudulent inventory can sometimes even surpass the volume of legitimate
inventory sold by brand-name publishers.
HOW ADS.TXT WORKS
Ads.txt is designed to be fairly simple. Let’s break down how it comes together:
1. Publishers place a text file on their web servers listing who is authorized to sell their inventory.
2. DSPs like Simpli.fi then send their own web crawlers to scour publishers’ sites and authenticate them for Ads.txt files.
3. If the Ads.txt file is found and the authorized digital seller is listed, then the buy proceeds as planned. If the site is not listed, the buy is flagged and does not occur.
ADOPTION OF ADS.TXT
Major publishers like CBS, Hearst, The New York Times, Time Warner, Disney and others have begun posting Ads.txt files for their domains, and by early December 2017 the adoption rate has surged to almost 50 percent.
Last month, independent ad tech consultant Paul Gubbins conducted a poll on Twitter asking why publishers had not yet implemented Ads.txt. About 150 people responded, and 60 percent said a “lack of understanding” of the benefits was the primary roadblock to wider adoption.
The good news is that adoption is accelerating, and we expect it will continue to speed up as understanding of this important initiative grows.
Programmatic buying receives some gloomy press regarding inventory quality, but there are
implementable solutions available today that solve these problems.
Simpli.fi’s platform looks at an average of 3 million opportunities every second. Our goal is to find the authentic gems among these opportunities to drive the best possible results for our clients. Overall, we’ve found the best approach to securing quality inventory and ensuring brand safety is to stack technologies and layer protection. For our clients, proactively remedying issues and adopting the latest standards as soon as they are identified has proven to be very effective.
To combat controversial content, inappropriate domains, fake news, etc., all of our clients have access to these Simpli.fi best practices:
Sites that are deemed unsafe for brands, that have signs of fraudulent traffic, or provide otherwise controversial content. Simpli.fi blacklists over 30 million disreputable domains so that no ads served by Simpli.fi on any campaign are seen on these domains.
The ability to block publishers (domains or apps) on a company-by-company basis to ensure ads are not served on sites or apps that conflict with the advertiser’s values or standards. Simpli.fi clients can customize and add this tactic to any campaign.
Blocking publishers (domains or apps) on a campaign-by-campaign basis. This filter can be applied to meet specific requirements or preferences on particular campaigns.
Provides advertisers with the ability to limit the campaign to only run on sites that have been pre-approved. This is recommended as an add-on to other strategies.
When it comes to brand safety, a transparent understanding of both the audience and the inventory is very important. Advertisers deserve to know exactly who they are serving their ads to, and on what sites their ads are being served. And because of this, the Simpli.fi platform provides full transparency at the domain level for every impression served – and it’s been this way since our founding in 2010.
This transparency is essential in providing advertisers with the knowledge of where their ads appear and alongside what content. As preferences vary from advertiser to advertiser, our platform also provides the power to shape traffic to meet brand safety standards customized to different advertisers’ needs.
Simpli.fi is committed to making sure our advertisers’ brands are safely served in the correct context, and we welcome any move that can help create a more trusted marketplace. Do you have questions about Ads.txt or general questions about inventory quality? Let us know how we can help at email@example.com.