Ads.txt and its Importance to Mitigate Ad Fraud

Ads.txt and its Importance to Mitigate Ad Fraud

What is Ads.txt?

Ads.txt stands for Authorized Digital Sellers – a method introduced to improve transparency in the process of buying ad space from publishers. It is a public record of all the companies the publishers have authorized to sell their digital property.

Being an IAB-approved text file, it can only be modified by the publishers’ webmaster. Potential buyers can open and review it. When the buyer receives an OpenRTB bid request, they can check for a match in the file for verification.

How does it work?

Publishers add the text file containing the list on their web servers and host it on their root domain. The text file is also integrated with the authorized programmatic platforms to show which property they are allowed to sell. This lets the advertisers know they’re buying into valid publishers’ property. It also confirms the agreement between the publishers and the exchange. Thereby, making it difficult for spoofers to sell illegal space under the said publishers’ name.

Advertisers can use a Python script to easily detect which publishers have an ads.txt file on their domain. Once a list of qualified publishers is produced, they can use it to check the legitimacy of the bid requests received. If it matches, they can be assured that its real. If not, they can choose to not accept the request.

Does it really work?

(1) Integrating ads.txt has increased the inventory prices thereby profiting publishers.

(2) It is simple, flexible and easy to use.

(3) It’s an immediate solution to clean up the ad market and do away with scammers. Targeting domain spoofing, it can save the industry millions of dollars.

(4) Google, one of the biggest players in the market, is backing the initiative with full force.

What are its disadvantages?

As a fraud-fighting tool, it makes it difficult but not impossible for frauds. Since being introduced, it has not yet been adopted by many premium publishers, limiting the buyers from reaching a larger customer base. Human errors like spelling mistakes in the text file create confusion and decrease the revenue for the publisher. They also fail to specify details such as the type of inventory that is authorized to be sold, allowing vendors to take advantage and earn a little more by using more expensive facilities like videos.

In the long run, ads.txt does seem to have a brighter future. With a little more advertising and time investment, it can become one of the most popular ad fraud solutions in the market. It’s time to hop on board and initiate its promotion.