All You Need to Know about Ads.txt


Ads.txt is an IAB-approved tool launched in 2017 aimed at preventing the sale of unauthorised inventory. With programmatic advertising expanding and more sellers joining the market, illegitimate selling has become a growing problem. In order to address the situation, the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab have introduced this txt file which allows publishers and distributors to publicly declare the companies they authorise to sell their digital inventory.

How does it work?

A simple text file made available by a domain owner acts as a publicly accessible record of parties authorised to sell the inventory on the publisher's domain - this allows buyers to distinguish between authorised and unauthorised, third-party sellers. Prior to ads.txt the only way for buyers to establish this was by contacting the publishers directly - which presented significant issues when trading in real time.

Why does this matter?

In the world of programmatic advertising, unauthorised reselling has become a major problem. Ads.txt helps publishers reclaim some of the spend that would have otherwise been distributed to illegitimate sellers by ensuring approved sales channels. Google’s Director of Sustainable Ads, Scott Spencer, said, “It's great to see the industry moving quickly to address the issue of counterfeit inventory with Ads.txt. Google fully supports ads.txt, and with a finalized spec, we'll begin integrating Ads.txt functionality into all our ads systems to make sure advertisers' spend reaches the intended publishers.” This gives us reason to think that more companies like Google will begin to incorporate ads.txt into their systems to help ensure a safer and more secure environment for sellers and publishers.

How will it affect you?

The success of Ads.txt is highly dependant on publisher uptake. Companies have voiced their support for Ads.txt, but whether or not they implement it is another matter - certainly it could be great news for programmatic. Melissa Bonnick, VP of Programmatic at Affiperf says “We will be paying attention to who starts to implement ads.txt”, suggesting there may be a reluctance to be amongst the first to do so. One possible reason for this is that some publishers would not be keen to disclose who is selling their inventory. A recent report by adtech company Gentintent suggests it is too early to say, with only 13 out of the top 1,000 domains implementing ads.txt. This figure is more than likely to increase but it could go either way at this point.

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