This edition of the digital advertising update looks at how ads.txt is doing about a year after its launch and what that means for programmatic ad fraud.
Association of National Advertisers Report: The Bot Baseline 2017
IAB Tech Lab: ads.txt Specification
IAB Tech Lab: ads.txt Primer
Today, we want to have a quick look at where ads.txt is close to one year after its introduction. ads.txt was released to positive acclaim in early 2017 as a tool to counter ad fraud and further transparency in the programmatic ad space. But how did the industry adopt ads.txt? Did ads.txt actually meet its goals? Is programmatic ad fraud over? This is what this episode is about.
ads.txt is an initiative that was conceived by IAB tech lab to further transparency in the murky space of programmatic ad buying and selling, specifically to counter arbitraging inventory and domain spoofing. ads.txt is basically a public list of authorized sellers or resellers of ad inventory, that can be leveraged to remove shady or downright illegitimate actors from the exchanges. We don’t want to go into the details here, but do check out the links in the description if you want to catch up on the specifics.
So, where are we at with ads.txt?
After the release of the specification in May 2017 the adoption rate was very slow. This was actually surprising, because ads.txt is not hard to implement and the benefits of wide adoption should be obvious to all players in the programmatic space. Also, the initial industry reaction to ads.txt had been very positive. But still, for some reason adoption rates didn’t seem to take off. Even premium publishers, who have every reason to protect their inventory against domain spoofing, were slow to get on board. By September of 2017 the overwhelming majority of publishers still did not offer ads.txt.
Adoption only seemed to gain traction in the third quarter of 2017 after Google started to push the implementation by advocating for ads.txt through various channels, including a number of changes to its popular double-click manager.
Double Click stops short of actually blacklisting inventory without ads.txt, but in cases where ads.txt is implemented, inventory now cannot be traded without positive authorization via ads.txt. As you would expect, the rest of the programmatic ecosystem did not miss Google’s message, and started to follow the lead. For instance, AppNexus’ DSPs will also disable inventory transactions that aren’t cleared by ads.txt from January 24th 2018 on.
In conclusion: At the end of 2017, ads.txt had an adoption rate of more than 50% and very strong momentum. After the slow start in early 2017, the adoption rates exploded during Q3 and Q4, and several major advertisers announced that they would insist on ads.txt when buying programmatically. It looks like ads.txt is finally on track.
However, the wide adoption of ads.txt does not mean that programmatic ad fraud is done for good. Advertisers still have to monitor their campaigns closely for signs of fraudulent activity. This is especially important for programmatic video, which is the prime fraud target because of rising spend and comparably limited inventory. If you have questions regarding fraud prevention - do get in touch, we’d be happy to help.
And that’s it for today. Subscribe to this channel, follow us on linkedin or twitter. Our website is admetrics.io. Until next time, take care.