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Ads.txt: where are we at now?

By Luc Marsolais,
SVP Business Operations
December 8th 2017

After a slow start, Ads.txt is finally starting to gain traction in the US ad tech community.

The IAB initiative is designed to combat an opaque ad tech supply chain and create a more transparent ecosystem for both buyers and sellers by having publishers list the vendors who are authorized to sell their inventory.

DSPs and buyers can then systematically check that file when attempting to purchase the publisher’s inventory through an SSP or network to make sure it has not been needlessly marked up by middlemen committing media arbitrage.

Looking at the past 6 months

After 90 days of the initiative, only 13% of the ComScore top 10,000 domains had adopted the solution. Although it’s worth noting that this number included some of the bigger players, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes and Business Insider, just to name a few.

Now, six months in, we’re beginning to see it make more of an impact.

The major shift came more recently, when Google endorsed it by announcing that its Doubleclick Bid Manager (DBM) would buy inventory only from publishers that had added ads.txt files to their sites.

Other DSPs followed suit, with leading publicly traded player The Trade Desk announcing soon after their intent to implement ads.txt and block the purchase of impressions from unauthorized suppliers. AppNexus has also committed to enforce their ads.txt policy starting January 24th.

What’s happening now?

Ads.txt allows for publishers to include both direct and resellers. However, since the beginning of the initiative, most have been hesitant to add resellers as part of their Ads.txt file. Why use a reseller when you can go to the original source?

Plus, many publishers fear that adding resellers makes for a more diluted and less controlled demand. However, adding them can bring some benefits, if you ask yourself the right questions when making that decision:

Are they an value-added reseller?

Here are a few things worth considering when adding a reseller to your ads.txt file:

  • Exclusive formats:
    What formats does this reseller offer? Any exclusive formats you could access through them also means they can bring you unique demand, thus generating more revenue by monetizing more ad spaces, sometimes for higher CPM.

  • Internal trading desk and unique demand:
    If a reseller has its own trading desk, this means they have a team dedicated to searching and bringing in new advertisers to increase demand, also meaning they can offer unique demand sources. If a reseller offers exclusive formats, they usually also offer specific demand sources catering to those formats.

  • Strength in specific verticals or devices:
    Whatever unicity they can bring is most probably to the publisher’s benefit. Whether it’s in terms of device or verticals, check for any PMPs or direct deals this reseller might offer. This again works to bring in more demand sources for publishers.

  • International partnerships:
    Look for international partnerships - well-established companies with global reach can provide a richer inventory (in terms of country, language, etc.) and help you generate external sales.

Have they been a reliable reseller in the past?

History speaks for itself. Has your past relationship with the particular reseller been trustworthy and reliable? If you have dealt with this reseller in the past and have no viable concerns, adding them to you ads.txt is a mere formality.

Again, the purpose of the initiative is to provide a simple method for publishers to control their inventory and for buyers to have a clearer view of where they are buying from.

What’s coming next?

The collaborative nature and relatively widespread adoption of ads.txt is an encouraging sign for an industry that has, in the past, been seen as too fragmented to undertake such initiatives. The push from industry leaders like Google has helped create a top down effect that has put significant pressure on smaller players to adopt the initiative as well.

As the initiative grow, we will see other big players follow in the footsteps, hopefully creating a more cohesive programmatic ecosystem and achieving the original purpose to increase supply chain transparency and prevent counterfeit inventory.

Still unsure about how to integrate Ads.txt? Check out this article!

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