Google has been trying to gauge the number of fraudulent ads that run across the advertising ecosystem, and along with a few media companies, has been "quietly" running tests to examine the problem, according to one report.
The media properties cited by Business Insider, from unnamed sources, include NBCU, CBS, and The New York Times.
"The Tech Lab and their members, including Google, started working on a new supply chain protocol in partnership with TAG late last year." Alanna Gombert, GM of the IAB Tech Lab, confirmed in an email to Digital Daily News. "Ads.txt was born from those working group conversations," she explains.
Google is taking the lead on an industry initiative called ads.txt spearheaded by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Ads.txt aims to wipe out fraud known as spoofing and increase transparency in programmatic advertising by keeping a public record of the Authorized Digital Sellers of the ads.
Business Insider's report points a finger at programmatic and the lack of checks and balances. The example provided: "spoofers can buy cheap ad space, from a low-quality site, on an exchange and then falsely list it as space on a premium site — like, say, CNN.com— at a higher price. The ad in question will never run on CNN.com."
The tests require Google and partners to turn off their programmatic ad inventory for brief time and then search the ad exchanges to see the ads listed. During that time, thousands, if not millions, of video and display ad spots remained available on multiple ad exchanges, although no ads actually would be for sale at the time.
Business Insiderreports that other companies have also identified the bogus ads, and that those committing the fraud are selling YouTube ad inventory as well.