An intro to ads.txt

If we focus on anything with this blog, it’s that the ad tech ecosystem is incredibly complex, and this complexity has caused lots of problems. One of the core issues is ad fraud and it’s likely you’ve read a good bit about it in the news. Ad fraud is bad right now (to the tune of tens of millions of dollars lost a day), and it’s almost certain that no one knows really how bad it is. To combat this threat the IAB has been working on a solution for the last year called ads.txt. Although it is not heavily adopted yet, many platforms, such as Google, have made it clear that they will not buy unauthorized inventory(started Oct. 15). So what is it?

What is ads.txt?

Ads.txt is a solution that publishers use that allows buyers to know exactly which vendors are authorized to sell their inventory. It’s similar to robots.txt, a standard for how websites communicate with crawlers. Here’s how it works and what’s included:

  • Publishers create a file that lists all networks, exchanges, and SSPs that are authorized to sell their inventory
  • The file states whether a given seller is direct or a reseller
  • The file also lists the exchange member IDs
  • These files are easily adjustable as you add or subtract approved partners

SSPs/DSPs then crawl the ads.txt files and will know which partners they can use to buy valid inventory (vs fraudulent) from a publisher they would like to do business with.

For all things ads.txt, see the IAB overview/specs/how to guide. It is likely that there will be rapid adoption in the next 3–6 months due to Google’s recent announcement, and publishers will need ways to validate that their ads.txt file is correctly implemented/formatted. We’re all about building tools to automate ad operations tasks at Ad Reform, which is why we plan on launching a free ads.txt validator in the coming week to enable publishers to become and stay compliant. Stay tuned!

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