Ads.txt Provides Greater Transparency for Advertisers

By Verizon Media Archives
Cover image for  article: Ads.txt Provides Greater Transparency for Advertisers

Transparency is a vital component of any digital advertising message.  Now as programmatic becomes more ubiquitous, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has developed a protocol that protects ad buyers from fraudulent sellers.

Ads.txt (which stands for Authorized Digital Sellers) is a simple, flexible and easy method for publishers and distributors to publicly display all of the vetted companies allowed to sell that domain's digital inventory.  A simple text file -- ads.txt -- offers a very transparent way to prevent unauthorized inventory sales from those bad actors who arbitrage inventory and spoof domains by listing all authorized sellers of the site, so anyone can cross check.

Tim Mahlman, President of Advertising and Publisher Strategy, Oath, is a big proponent of ads.txt.  "Advertisers want greater transparency from their media partners," he explained.  "Publishers that have embraced ads.txt have taken a positive step toward delivering that.  It's a more secure way to publicly identify the platforms authorized to sell publisher inventory, limiting bad actors.  And it gives advertisers a more accurate representation of media impressions and who's selling them.

"For publishers that haven't yet implemented ads.txt, they'll ultimately get on board," he continued.  "They can't afford not to as more advertisers buy based on transparency."

To further understand the familiarity and implementation of ads.txt Oath just completed a study on the subject, polling 220 ad and agency executives.

The study revealed that ads.txt is a huge plus for the industry:

  • 51% of the respondents say that ads.txt make them more comfortable about buying programmatic
  • 48% say that they're suspicious of publishers who are not using ads.txt
  • One-third will only advertise with publishers who are using ads.txt

The study also showed that despite this good news there is still work to be done. 

  • While ads.txt is continuing to grow, only 60% of the top 1,000 U.S. publishers have already implemented it.
  • More education is needed as nearly 20% of advertisers have never heard of ads.txt

Arguably, ads.txt is "still a new development in our industry," noted Mahlman.  "The IAB only launched it one year ago.  That education gap will shrink quickly this year as more advertisers demand tools for inventory transparency.  Adoption is growing.  It's gaining momentum but is still unfamiliar to some buyers.  Partners need to continue to educate advertisers on the benefits of buying ads.txt-enabled inventory."

Mahlman is enthusiastic about ads.txt and stated that his company has supported it "from the beginning and has already implemented it across its properties.  We are also collaborating with publishers and approved resellers and have been enforcing ads.txt across our platforms and filtering inventory on domains where DSPs buy," he said. 

The future of ads.txt looks abundantly clear.  "Since ads.txt was implemented last year, increased transparency in the programmatic ecosystem has become even more prevalent," Mahlman concluded.  "Advertisers can use it to verify inventory sellers by simply adding ads.txt to the end of a URL."

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