IAB’s Authorized Digital Sellers List Launched

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Today the Interactive Advertising Bureau is finally launching their anti-domain spoofing initiative, ads.txt. The Authorized Digital Sellers list, known as ads.txt, is an inventory verification system that assure advertisers they are purchasing real inventory from the claimed publisher. This initiative has been launched in response to domain-spoofing, where fraudsters list inventory belonging to top-tier publishers, stealing advertising dollars from those publishers.

Ad-spoofing has become a huge problem in the digital media ecosystem for both advertisers and publishers. For advertisers, they end up purchasing fake inventory, and for publishers, they miss out on advertiser dollars because fraudsters syphoned money from ad budgets that should have been spent on inventory on their own site. Ad-spoofing is big in video ads because of the limited inventory for video and the higher CPMs. The extent of ad spoofing damage was reported by the Wall Street Journal last December, which is likely the single event that triggered the brainstorm that created ads.txt.

The blueprint for ads.txt was made public end of May. The way it works is almost like a verification technology, enabling content owners to declare who is and is not authorized to sell their inventory (sounds a lot like block-chain technology, doesn’t it?). As the IAB explains it:

‘This new tool, known as ads.txt, is a pre-formatted index of authorized sellers that publishers can post to their domains. Programmatic buyers can then use these publisher ads.txt files to screen for fake or misrepresented inventory.’

(Source: IAB Tech Lab Press Release)

Sounds cool, right? The Authorized Digital Sellers list has received both criticism and support since the blueprint came out. However, Google has thrown its weight behind ads.txt, by recently stating it will only allocate advertiser dollars to publishers that have implemented ads.txt. Supply side partners such as AppNexus, IndexExchange and Teads are also on board, and claim to have initiated verification technologies prior to ads.txt. As of now, 13% of the world’s top-tier publishers are signed on with the Authorized Digital Sellers list, but that number will likely go up if they want to receive ad dollars.

The net effect of ads.txt, remains to be seen. Proponents claim publisher revenues should go up because fraudsters will no longer be able to syphon ad budget money from them. Opponents say it’s not enough, and that the fraudsters will find a way around it. We will be watching it closely and advise publishers to employ ads.txt, because, why not?

Stay tuned.