In the digital era, fraudulent activity is the plague disrupting the healthy environment of many industries. Adtech is no exception. Traffic fraud is pervasive, its scope is massive. Digital advertising demanded serious countermeasures be taken, as we are talking about losses worth billions every year. The Interactive Advertising Bureau, known as IAB (responsible for ensuring high standards and development of digital marketing industries), came up with a sound resolution — the Authorized Digital Sellers initiative: aka Ads.txt.

We decided to dedicate this blog post to ads.txt and its benefits, but first things first: let's figure out why we do this. Ads.txt Version 1.0 was rolled out in 2017. Since that time, the tool has turned neither into mandatory procedure nor into the mainstream, and many websites still turn a blind eye to the initiative, making all possible excuses. Transparency of the digital ecosystem will not be built by itself, as it has to be achieved by the joint efforts of everybody who is involved. Actually, neglect of ads.txt poses an obstacle for digital advertising in many ways. Let’s dive into the concept and explore all of its beauties.

Ads.txt: explaining the phenomenon

Ads.txt is a text file approved by IAB which is used by the publishers on their web servers and lists all the authorized partnerships — the legitimate companies empowered to sell or resell the publisher’s ad inventory. The major aim of the Authorized Digital Sellers project is to ensure transparency in the programmatic advertising ecosystem, specifically, in the inventory supply chain. When the digital sellers are publicly declared, the publishers are provided with an increased control level of their inventory within the market.

In the process of programmatic buying, the advertiser purchases media being aware that this particular URL was provided by credible and legitimate publishers. The sad truth is that it is not always the case: counterfeit inventory might occur and the advertiser has no way of verifying or confirming responsible sellers on the exchanges. Counterfeit inventory refers to mislabeled units sourced from application, domain, or video and sold for the purpose of selling automated non-human or incentivized traffic. Ads.txt is used to combat domain spoofing and arbitration challenges.

The advantages of using ads.txt

The application of ads.txt is a win-win situation for both advertisers and publishers, adding trust to programmatic selling. From an advertiser’s perspective, ads.txt provides an opportunity to enhance the purity and quality of the traffic and verify direct relationships with the inventory suppliers. If we take a look at the tool from the publisher’s perspective, it helps to enhance the advertising quality and the UX in general by screening out undesirable advertisers. All in all, a publisher with ads.txt is deemed a reliable partner.

From the technical standpoint, ads.txt is easy to implement and can be launched in any web browser. It is about flexibility and security at the same time: it is impossible to corrupt as long as it is posted by admin, and the list can be constantly updated by a webmaster at any convenient time. In the context of financial benefits, ads.txt can potentially boost ad earnings due to decreased marketplace supply of inventory. Adding the tool means more buyer demand.   

Getting started with ads.txt

If you still haven’t embraced ads.txt in practice, getting started is quite simple. Implementation involves several steps:

  • To begin with, create a .txt file and name it ads.txt.
  • Each line in this file should be dedicated to one legitimate seller, and this information should include the name of the domain, publisher’s ID, and the type of the account (whether it is direct or reseller).
  • Then place it in the domain’s root level. The access to the file is fulfilled either via HTTP or HTTPS, but make sure the standard relative path is maintained.
It is essential that all the authorized partners are included in the list. Otherwise, inventory sale may not happen because of the inability to confirm the authenticity of the inventory unit. Once you've completed it and posted the file — voila! Now you have made a significant contribution to the transparency of the digital ad space (and as a publisher, you will not miss out on the revenue).

MGID has the high quality of advertising practices as its top priority, which is why we are active supporters of ads.txt and we highly recommend that publishers consider this action. The safety of the adtech industry depends on all the stakeholders.