Ads.txt -- What Part Of Not Losing $1.27bn Don't Publishers Like?

At what stage in a crime does the victim become a laughing stock for not having taken some precautions? Sure, nobody asks to be burgled, but leaving a fancy tv and X Box One console behind an open front door does kind of ask for it.

It's the same with publishers and ad fraud. Nobody is suggesting they enjoy having their sites "spoofed," and we have to remember there wasn't always an awful lot about it in the the past. 

The thing is, they can now -- and if today's news from Google doesn't make them stand up and take notice, nothing will. A massive $1.27bn is being lost by publishers to video ad fraud  every year. There is nothing too special about video. It attracts premium CPM rates and so, if you were a fraudster, it makes sense that you would go for the more expensive inventory.

Google's estimation of more than a billion dollars worth of fraud would suggest that the fraud is not only possible and lucrative, it's widespread. This is because ad-placing systems can be easily fooled. However, there is a solution to this, at least to spoofing, and so it is surprising that more publishers aren't deploying it.

The relatively new kid on the anti-fraud block is ads.txt, and the way it works is wonderfully simple. It not only proves a publisher is who they say they are, but it also allows them to stipulate who can sell their inventory. 

When ads.txt is in use, it should be impossible for a rogue operator to pretend that they are a particular site or that they are empowered to sell inventory for that site. This prevents a poor-quality site posing as a big, reputable publishers and then pretending to be an operator that is allowed to sell its inventory. 

It is no surprise that the Google researcher's main conclusion is that brand advertisers adopt an "ads.txt only" approach. If they want to stop wasting budget and only see their name in a premium, safe environment, the only way forward has to be work solely with publishers that have deployed ads.txt to safeguard their site's inventory. 

When there is a solution out there from the IAB Tech Labs, it's a real surprise that we are still having this conversation and publishers are losing $1.27bn per year to a form of fraud that can be tackled.

I wonder if, again, it will need the aforementioned brand power to get behind ads.txt to protect their brand image and cut down on waste. It has been the year for brands flexing their muscles so I wouldn't be at all surprised if some start to only work with publishers who have protected themselves, and their advertisers.

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