Commentary

Why Ads.txt Adoption Is So Important For In-App Ads

Since its launch, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s ads.txt project has helped the advertising industry take great strides forward in preventing counterfeit inventory across the ecosystem by improving transparency in the digital programmatic supply chain.

But one significant gap in ads.txt has lingered: coverage for mobile apps. That’s a problem, given that more ad dollars than ever before are going to the in-app space. Worldwide, in-app advertising is set to triple from $72 billion in 2016 to $201 billion in 2021, according to App Annie.

As an industry, we can’t afford to let mobile fraudsters stifle ad investment in an area where consumers are spending more and more of their media time. In recognition of this, the IAB Tech Lab will soon be rolling out its much-anticipated Mobile App Support for ads.txt.

As already demonstrated in the web space, ads.txt is a simple, yet highly effective measure for publishers to prevent counterfeit inventory. While it's previously been used for web-based advertising, the new specification will represent a transformative breakthrough for apps.

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Swift adoption of this new specification will be absolutely essential for app publishers. Brands and agencies must be able to purchase in-app inventory and be confident their investments are winding up in the hands of reputable vendors. Ads.txt informs all programmatic media buyers who are the publisher's authorized monetization partners (e.g., exchanges). This solution, based on IAB standards, makes it harder for inappropriate parties to sell any counterfeit inventory across the ecosystem on legitimate publishers’ behalf.

To better understand the important role that ads.txt plays in the marketplace, consider what we’ve seen in the video space. Video is another area of growing ad media spend that has been besieged by bad actors in search of a quick buck.

Fortunately, about eight out of 10 publishers that offer video inventory programmatically have adopted ads.txt, and to great effect. As reported by eMarketer, A recent experiment by The Guardian, Google, and MightyHive sought to determine how much of the inventory on ad exchanges purporting to belong to The Guardian was legitimate. When The Guardian lifted ads.txt filters from ad buys, it found that an astounding 72% of video ad spend went to unauthorized programmatic platforms.

As fraudulent inventory enters the market, advertisers and publishers must be more diligent in implementing best practices to fight back, including ads.txt. As more publishers with mobile inventory adopt ads.txt for in-app, programmatic media buyers will be able to easily identify the true, authorized sellers for a participating publisher, allowing their brands to have more confidence that they are buying in-app inventory from authentic publishers.

Today’s mobile advertising world is all about transparency. Publishers, advertisers, and media buying and selling companies want full, end-to-end visibility into the whole supply-demand chain without any obstructions. The new ads.txt specification will provide exactly that for apps. As an industry, we must prepare to embrace this key measure to ensure transparency, visibility, and control across the mobile industry.

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