Ads.txt takes programmatic transparency to the next level

Programmatic advertising is not new in the digital advertising arena, but even so, it still struggles with a few transparency issues that are concerning both publishers and advertisers. The Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab has taken this to heart, and last spring introduced a new tool that can help ad buyers avoid illegitimate sellers who arbitrage inventory and spoof domains.

The idea behind the new format is simple; Increase transparency in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. Ads.txt stands for Authorized Digital Sellers and is a simple, flexible and secure method that publishers and distributors can use to publicly declare the companies they authorize to sell their digital inventory.

This IAB-approved and developed tool is essentially a text file that aims to prevent unauthorized and fraudulent inventory sales.


The way it works is that the publisher embeds a text file on their servers that lists all the partners that are authorized to sell their inventory. On the SSP side, ads.txt files are integrated in order to confirm which publisher’s inventory the platform is authorized to sell. By doing so, the publisher and the programmatic platforms are allowing the buyers to check the legitimacy of the inventory they are acquiring.

The information on ads.txt is open to all, all you need to do is go to the publisher’s domain, add “/ads.txt” at the end of the web address- and you can view their list of authorized sellers.


Sounds good, right? But where is the downside?


This format is new and hasn’t been integrated by all the publishers and sellers yet. According to a recent study, only 12.8% of the Alexa top 10K publishers have an ads.txt file. The upside is that adoption is happening across all sizes and geos, meaning that this is not just a local trend happening in the USA alone, but publishers from across the range are slowly adapting to this new format of programmatic transparency.

What’s left to do is wait patiently and see whether this is a blowing trend or a new norm that is here to stay.


As a member of the IAB Tech Lab DMG is on the front lead with ads.txt.  Interested to hear more about how DMG uses ads.txt to validate traffic? Contact us and we’ll be more than happy to elaborate.


For further reading about the ads.txt format, you can visit the IAB tech lab page here.


Gil Wilder-Tekuzener is Head of Marketing at DMG

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