An open letter to publishers on ads.txt: Adopt or be blocked

Liane Nadeau is vp, director of programmatic at DigitasLBi

Dear Publishers,

It has come to our attention that most of you have yet to adopt the ads.txt protocol on your site. As valued partners of ours, we wanted to extend a few words of motivation and explain why this is so important to our relationship moving forward.

As you likely (read: hopefully) know, the IAB launched ads.txt in May to reduce domain spoofing and reselling in the open marketplace. Ads.txt, which stands for Authorized Digital Sellers, is a text file that lives on your web server to tell us on the buy side who should be selling your inventory programmatically. That way, we can see who is approved to sell your impressions and buy only from them.

It’s a tricky concept. Let’s try a metaphor. It’s a lot like counterfeit bags. You don’t want anyone selling fake versions of your premium bag on Canal Street, as it cheapens your brand and you lose a potential sale. We as buyers don’t want to be duped into buying a fake bag because it’s of poorer quality. So, if you publish a list of retailers that are authorized to sell your bag, we can check it out to make sure we buy one that’s legit. Everybody wins.

Seems like a no-brainer for publishers and brands alike. That being said, we understand there are some reasons you might not have adopted this protocol yet, so let us address them here.

“We don’t know how.” That’s easy; here’s the link to the spec from the IAB. Some SSPs like AppNexus and DoubleClick AdX have also published documents to make it easier for their publisher partners to implement.

“We don’t have the resources.” I’m no coder, but sites like Business Insider that have adopted the spec have said it’s “a small amount of work.”

“We don’t see a reason.” We on the buy side are prepared to only buy impressions from sites that have identified their authorized digital sellers, beginning as early as the fourth quarter of 2017. So if you don’t implement the code, there is a strong chance that your site will be shut out from many buyers, and your yield will decrease dramatically.

“Isn’t blockchain supposed to take care of this issue?” Valid point. If blockchain reaches its fullest potential by creating a distributed ledger for real-time bidding, it could potentially eliminate domain spoofing and reselling. However, we know that we are years from realizing that full potential, and ads.txt is something that can be implemented immediately.

We will be looking to adopt this protocol in our buying as soon as the fourth quarter of 2017, so we encourage your participation as soon as possible. Widespread adoption is necessary to see this thing through. Let’s not let the spoofers win.

Your friends on the buy side

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