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Jonathan Palgon
October 05, 2017

Why This Director of Ad Ops Thinks You Should Adopt Ads.Txt

ADS.TXT.jpgWe live in a world where we expect to get what we pay for. I don’t know about you, but I love sushi and when I decide to spring for sushi - and not just any sushi - I’m talking about the speciality rolls that come at a premium when compared to your rinky-dink California Roll, I expect it to be a fresh and well presented Spicy Tuna Roll. Why? Because I’ve paid for it.

This type of mindset is what makes the world go around - even the programmatic advertising world. Much like me expecting primo sushi, when an advertiser buys ad space programmatically, they are expecting for their ad to be displayed and seen by consumers. And they are relying on the fact that the URLs they are buying from are accurate and actually offer by those publishers.

I mean, it’s not an insane idea - you’re supposed to get what you pay for. But even in the pretty transparent world of programmatic, you have fraudsters who are selling illegitimate inventory, and unfortunately, it’s difficult for advertisers to verify their purchases. They just can’t wag their finger from behind the counter and demand better, fresher guac. I like sushi, okay?

In order to clear up things on the programmatic side, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released a new protocol called ads.txt. While we know what txt stands for (lingo for text, for those of you who were unsure), the "ads" represents Authorized Digital Sellers and its goal is to discourage the sale of counterfeit ad inventory on the programmatic side.

What’s that you ask? “Why do advertisers have to worry about that? I thought that was the whole appeal of programmatic?” You’re right. Programmatic is supposed to be pretty transparent, but ad fraudsters seem to find their way around anything (speaking of ad fraud, check out Insticator’s exposé on ad fraud here).

But anyways, ad fraud guys know how to get around and recently there has been a lot of domain spoofing and illegitimate inventory being sold on sites. So the IAB has launched the ads.txt initiative to make sure everyone is getting the sushi - er, I mean ad space - that they’re paying for. 

Speaking as an Ad Ops guy, I think ads.txt is a pretty great idea that was a long time coming and it can help keep both sides of the equation - advertisers and publishers - accountable. Even better is that it’s really easy to implement. All publishers have to do is drop a text file on their servers that specifically lists all of the companies that are authorized to sell publishers’ inventory. Programmatic platforms can also drop a similar file to confirm which publishers’ inventory they’re allowed to sell.

Basically, all of the ad space purchased can be validated with ads.txt. By adopting ads.txt, publishers can declare who has the permission to sell their inventory. It’s kinda like when Michael Scott from The Office - a show I may or may not have rewatched recently - yells, “I declare bankruptcy,” but instead a publisher is yelling “I declare this partner valid!”

However, despite its ease and efficiency, some publishers are hesitant to adopt the ads.txt idea. Some offer excuses like they don’t know how to implement it, that they don’t have the resources or that they simply don’t see the value in it. Let me tell you, those excuses are bogus - especially for premium publishers who definitely have the resources. Why do I think these excuses are lame? Because the IAB has provided a ton of resources to help with these concerns and questions. Also, ad fraud isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the World Federation of Advertisers expects the cost of ad fraud will grow to $50M in the next 10 years. Yikes. I don’t know about you, but that’s a whopping amount of cash that could be saved by simply dropping a file on a server.

Here at Insticator, we believe that taking the time to implement ads.txt is more than worth it, which is why we adopted the protocol a few weeks ago. And we sincerely hope our publishers participate - if you haven’t done so already. All it takes is 5 minutes to install the file, and it will ensure our partners can generate maximum revenue.

So take it from me, Insticator’s resident Ad Ops aficionado: publishers either implement ads.txt or get left behind. Ads.txt isn’t a cure all fix, but it is a hefty and effective supplement to combat the fraudsters that plague the space. In closing, get your Spicy Tuna Roll.

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