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The battle for programmatic transparency: what ads.cert and OpenRTB 3.0 mean for transparency online

By Dom Fortin,
CIO
June 7th 2018

The IAB Tech Lab, the international non-profit devoted to ad industry transparency and growth, has brought two new tools to the table for professionals in the ad industry.

Ads.txt was designed to address the rising concern of counterfeit inventory and unauthorized reselling of impressions, and its quick adoption by major companies has aided in the building of a buffer between ad space buyers and potential malicious parties in the marketplace. With Ads.txt, publishers can ensure that inventory is only sold through approved companies on the list of verified sellers. On the buy side, advertisers can buy more confidently by knowing that the platforms they buy from have a direct relationship with the publishers they are targeting.

IAB, however, hasn’t stopped building tools with Ads.txt. The release of Ads.cert and OpenRTB 3.0 both aim to further extend the security measures Ads.txt brought forward.

Understanding Ads.cert

Ads.cert is an extension of the ideas implemented in the design of the Ads.txt method. While Ads.txt builds a structure for approving and authorizing ads on a website, Ads.cert helps site owners confirm the identity of the seller, ensuring that the original ad provider is genuine.

While IAB Tech Lab is still researching ways to improve it, in its final form, Ads.cert would ensure that advertisers will be buying from legitimate platforms with direct relationships with the publisher.

How does Ads.cert relate to OpenRTB 3.0?

OpenRTB 3.0 is the latest iteration of IAB Tech Lab’s framework for programmatic ad buying and selling and one of the key new features was built around the idea of Ads.cert. In essence, OpenRTB 3.0 introduces of ad requests, creating a digital paper trail for transactions

The results of these updates will be felt across the advertising spectrum. To quote Jim Butler, CTO of Global Supply Platforms, Oath Inc. and Co-Chair of the OpenRTB Working Group: “As the industry adopts this new standard, we expect to see sharply increasing demands for authenticated supply and experiences [...]”.

What do these changes mean for the industry?

Between the new tools introduced in OpenRTB 3.0, Ads.txt, and Ads.cert, the ad industry has a new arsenal of tools to validate transactions, weed out bad actors, and build more secure structures on the way. In the past, ad transactions were vulnerable to digital tampering, but Ads.cert in the OpenRTB 3.0 framework will help remove this risk while simultaneously providing information to ad buyers, sellers, and brokers that will prevent shady business practice or dishonest sales.

While the impact of these tools will largely rely on how many individuals adopt and, therefore, contribute to them, there already are examples of IAB Tech Lab’s previous tools being successful in reach. Ads.txt was adopted early on by major companies; The New York Times, Forbes, and a number of other industry giants began using Ads.txt to great success. RTB 3.0 and Ads.cert are likely to usher in a new standard for transparency and security in the ad market, and that’s good for companies on all sides of the equation.

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