IAB Tech Lab Updates Ads.txt To Help Buyers Determine Owner, Manager Of Inventory

Digital advertising standards body IAB Tech Lab announced an update Wednesday to the ads.txt specification.

The update, open for public comment through May 31, 2022, includes two new items for publishers. The values -- ownerdomain and managerdomain -- aim to help to provide greater insight into seller relationships through sellers.json, and to further strengthen ads.txt as a tool to reduce fraud in buying and selling of advertisements on websites, mobile apps and connected TV.

Shailley Singh, senior vice president of product at IAB Tech Lab, gave Hearst as an example, which owns the Connecticut Post and the Houston Chronicle websites.

“Both have an entry for Open x in their ads.txt file as direct with the id 539776080,” he explains. “Open x has an entry with id 539776080 that lists the domain as hearst.com. In this current scenario, if the entries are matched, it shows a domain mismatch unless you know that Hearst is the owner of the two sites.”



By adding the ownerdomain declaration for hearst.com in ctpost.com and houstonchronicle.com, it will be clear that hearst.com owns these sites and it will match transparently.

The advertising industry will use the “ownerdomain value” to specify the domain of the business that owns the website, as well as where the ad will serve.

This helps to connect the seller domain for publisher entries in sellers.json files, which have previously been difficult to validate programmatically, resulting in mismatched seller domains -- especially when multiple publisher properties are owned by the same company.

The managerdomain value works in a similar way. It declares where the site is primarily or exclusively monetized by another entity.

For example, A.com allows SSP.com to manage all its inventory. Today there is no way to declare this, which leads to two issues. First, the seller ID may belong to ssp.com and result in domain mismatch -- and although ssp.com is the direct path to buy A.com, this is not clear unless the marketer is aware of this relationship. Adding managerdomain will enable a website to declare this relationship.

When asked about the length of time this would take to implement, Singh said it will be “really fast.”

“Typically, they will need to add one line to their ads.txt files,” he said. “Systems that read and apply this data will need to implement changes accordingly."

IAB Tech Lab will implement the changes in its Transparency Center that aggregates and validates ads.txt data, and make it available soon after the specification is final.

Paul Bannister, CSO of Cafe Media and an early adopter of the manager domain field, believes the value “provides an unambiguous link between our sellers.json entry in exchange’s sellers.json files and the publisher’s ads.txt file, providing buyers with a clear understanding of supply path.”

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