July 6, 2017
Ads.txt: Another Step Towards a Clean and Transparent Digital Ad Ecosystem
On June 27, the IAB Tech Lab released the final ads.txt spec as part of their efforts to crack down on arbitraged inventory and domain spoofing. This text file standard provides a simple way for buyers to check whether inventory from a particular source has been authorized for sale by the domain owner. Since the IAB announced this development, publishers, buyers and technology providers in the middle have been figuring out how and when to adopt ads.txt, or if they should at all.
From our point of view, there is no question that ads.txt is a positive step toward a more transparent digital ad marketplace.
OpenX fully supports the ads.txt initiative and additional efforts to remove domain spoofing and inventory misrepresentation from programmatic advertising. Domain spoofing is re-emerging as a major quality issue in part due to the rise of server-to-server connections, which can complicate validation of a domain at request time. Premium publishers are seeing their inventory devalued due to domain spoofing, and ads.txt is a relatively easy way for publishers to accurately describe who is authorized to represent their inventory and preserve their CPMs. Ads.txt can also give buyers certainty that the inventory they are buying is from an authorized seller and, ultimately, can bid with confidence.
For a marketplace quality solution to succeed, widespread adoption is the key to success. The simplicity of domain-based bidding obscures complex payment chains in which inventory may be bought and sold multiple times, often without the consent of the publisher. A single compromised source can propagate spoofed inventory across the ecosystem – all the more reason for the industry to band together to ensure ads.txt succeeds. Everyone in the industry needs to devote resources to understand ads.txt and how they can play a role. We are adopting this standard and encouraging the premium publishers we work with to do so as well.
Though ads.txt does not yet support mobile app inventory or syndicated content, that should not be a reason for publishers and buyers not to participate. At present there is no single solution that fully addresses domain spoofing. All industry players must work collaboratively to find increasingly more secure ways of protecting inventory and keeping advertising dollars out of the hands of bad actors. As the ads.txt initiative gains steam, and others emerge to help keep the industry clean, the success of these programs will serve as an important indicator for the future of digital advertising.