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Industry Aligns to Adopt ads.txt Specification

By Alanna Gombert

The IAB Tech Lab has been working in partnership with the digital advertising industry to take in and process all of the feedback for ads.txt, the mechanism that allows publishers to list their Authorized Digital Sellers and is a frontline weapon against inventory spoofing and unauthorized sellers. Early adopters started testing the ads.txt implementation soon after our initial announcement and are beginning to run ads.txt crawlers. We released an initial crawler to help kickstart the process. The amount of interest and support from the digital advertising community has been immense and from all facets of the supply chain: advertisers, agencies, platforms, publishers, data companies, and more. Adoption has been increasing rapidly even prior to the final stamp of approval. One of my personal pledges to the industry is to push out product and changes faster and safer. With that in mind and after an extensive review process within the OpenRTB Working Group, we are happy to announce the final ads.txt Specification Version 1.0!

Now that 1.0 is final, we’d like to share some of the industry feedback that was discussed both in the working group and in our ads.txt Slack channel. Industry feedback is paramount to the work we do at the Tech Lab as all of the work we do is in service to the greater good of the ecosystem.

“AppNexus is strongly supportive of the ads.txt initiative, which is fully aligned with our longstanding policy of requiring visibility into the quality and origin of inventory available on our marketplace. It brings other industry participants up to our strong quality standards and thereby helps create a more transparent programmatic ecosystem. We’re working to educate customers and partners about its utility and look forward to its widespread adoption.” Brian O’Kelley, CEO, AppNexus.

“We are excited to see ads.txt succeed as a valuable enhancement to the programmatic media ecosystem. We are already engaged in discussions with several of the major participants involved. Through our people-based marketing approach, Dentsu Aegis Network unlocks value for marketers by managing, activating and generating proprietary audience insights that drive competitive business advantages. ads.txt complements our efforts working with premium programmatic media partners, cross-channel and at scale.” Art Muldoon, Co-CEO, Amnet US

Community support and adoption is imperative to the success of ads.txt. Business Insider was an early adopter and quickly posted ads.txt files. Jana Meron, VP of Programmatic at Business Insider actively encourages more companies to join them: “The industry urgently needs to tackle fraud head-on, which is why we’re big supporters of IAB and its innovative ads.txt tool,” she says. “We expect it will result in more needed transparency, and we encourage all stakeholders — from advertisers to publishers — to join in this effort.”

Adoption throughout the ecosystem further encodes the expectation for publishers to post their ads.txt files and for buyers to demand authorized inventory. Jonah Goodhart, SVP Oracle Data Cloud and Co-Founder of Moat is “thrilled to support Tech Lab’s new standard for building trust and transparency in the supply chain.” Moat is already looking at the next steps, as adoption increases, by taking advantage of ads.txt to achieve higher ad quality, and brand safety. “We are eager to help promote Open Brand Safety and ads.txt this summer to help both advertisers and publishers leverage standardized approaches that ensure appropriate ads appear on brand safe pages of approved publishers,” said Goodhart.

“The ads.txt specification provides an actionable recourse for digital advertising companies to fight fraud by identifying authorized resellers, leading to transacting in more trusted inventory. The Trustworthy Accountability Group is actively supporting adoption by encouraging publishers to populate their ads.txt files and educating buyers so that they leverage this powerful repository of information.” Mike Zaneis, CEO, The Trustworthy Accountability Group

When buyers and third parties crawl for publishers’ ads.txt files, buyers can understand legitimate supply paths, and publisher revenue can be protected. When tackling the problem of ad fraud digital video ad inventory, Allen Dove, CTO at SpotX states that ads.txt “is a simple and effective mechanism to collectively combat fraud across the digital advertising ecosystem.”

Buy-side adoption of ads.txt “will help us improve quality and, with credible members of our industry, this program will raise all boats,” says Tim Sims, VP of Inventory at The Trade Desk. Crawling for ads.txt files and reconciling the files against available inventory will shift ad spend towards authorized inventory. This focus on quality sets an example of adoption that involves combating the challenge by working with partners.

“It’s great to see the industry moving quickly to address the issue of counterfeit inventory with ads.txt. Google fully supports ads.txt, and with a finalized spec, we’ll begin integrating ads.txt functionality into all our ads systems to make sure advertisers’ spend reaches the intended publishers,” said Scott Spencer, Director of Sustainable Ads, Google. “We believe it’s crucial to provide buyers and publishers with a clear and safe method to benefit from programmatic channels, and we’ll be working with publishers to help them create their ads.txt files as soon as possible.”

In the fight to restore ad spend towards authorized inventory, Rocket Fuel is also taking action. Ari Levenfeld, Chief Privacy Officer, Rocket Fuel, says that “domain spoofing has been an inventory quality challenge in programmatic for some time. Rocket Fuel applauds IAB Tech Lab for organizing the ads.txt initiative, which represents a step forward in buyers’ and sellers’ ability to verify authorized inventory.”

The success of the future of ads.txt relies on community engagement at the Tech Lab working group level. OpenRTB members contributed feedback and workflow samples to improve the supporting resources and finalize the first version of the specification. Additional nuances in the ads.txt workflow, which have been uncovered in the feedback process, are now tracked and part of the growing body of resources to support adoption and future development of ads.txt. We encourage Tech Lab members to aide in the resolution of immediate issues including mobile. Let’s clean up the industry together.


Alanna Gombert
SVP, Technology & Ad Operations, IAB, and General Manager, IAB Tech Lab