In May 2017, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) launched a revolutionary initiative with the noble goal of reducing ad fraud.
The new Authorized Digital Sellers program, or Ads.txt for short, specifically takes aim at two of the biggest problem-causers in the digital advertising ecosystem: domain spoofing, when a site where an ad is placed is misrepresented, and inventory arbitrage, the unauthorized resale of ad inventory.
It sounds great, the mission is clear and the intent is to improve things for both the buy and sell sides. So why have so few publishers hopped on board? Here are five issues that acts as barriers to Ads.txt adoption.
1. Don't Understand What It Is
Ads.txt was created by the IAB to help both publishers and advertisers prevent ad fraud. Its functioning is rather elegant in its simplicity. It allows publishers holding ad inventory to show advertisers, potential buyers of the inventory, exactly who is authorized to sell that inventory.
If we put it in consumer electronics terms, it would be like Samsung giving potential phone buyers a list of retailers authorized to sell them a Galaxy Note 8. The win is on both sides, as Samsung protects its brand and the phone buyer is assured he or she is purchasing the real deal product.
2. Too Difficult To Implement
It’s likely anyone who is delaying Ads.txt adoption based on complexity hasn’t looked into what is really involved.
The IAB has been around long enough to know that something that’s difficult to do just won’t get done. So they made implementation of Ads.txt super-simple. It basically entails the creation of a text file that’s saved on your web server. You can see the full documentation here.
To make it even easier — and encourage more publishers to join in — many of the top SSPs, like AppNexus and DoubleClick AdX, have created their own documentation to ensure a smooth implementation for their publisher partners.
3. Where's The Benefit?
It’s hard to believe anyone is still naive when it comes to the cost of ad fraud, but The World Federation of Advertisers estimates it will grow to $50M in the next 10 years. That’s a lot of waste that can now, at least partially, be avoided.
There is also risk to brands that fall prey to domain spoofing. Having your brand’s ad on a site full of pirated or otherwise unsavory material, is a kin to a knock-off Galaxy Note 8 made out of subpar materials with abysmal performance would reflect badly on Samsung,
Lastly, there is your future programmatic revenue to protect. It’s already clear the buy side of the exchange is embracing Ads.txt wholeheartedly, and subsequently, they’ll increasingly look only to sites that have the protection in place when buying impressions. He who has not rolled it out will be left behind.
4. It Reduces Demand For Inventory
This excuse has a bit of chicken/egg, supply/demand involved, which should balance out as Ads.txt grows in popularity. On the buy side, there is not yet the widest availability of inventory, so the buyers are limiting their spend to Ads.txt publishers. On the sell side, many publishers fear implementing Ads.txt will reduce the demand for their inventory.
On the latter, this should be a non-issue, since the demand that gets cut off is that from unauthorized resellers. On the former, well, that’s why we need more publishers to come on board.
5. Tech Team Is Too Busy With Other Projects
While it’s true that tech teams are often overcommitted and understaffed, this is just a matter of priorities. We know ad fraud is a huge problem. We know it can damage your brand reputation and cost you money. How can fixing that not be a priority?
Ask yourself and your tech team what they are doing that is more pressing that building a simple text file, then determine if that really is more important than the damage failure to act can incur.