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How Do Ads.txt and Ads.cert Prevent Advertising Fraud?

In a $25 billion industry, $6 billion in fraud isn’t negligable… it’s a direct threat to the industry.  Those stats come from a survey by the Association of National Advertisers, who partnered with digital security company WhiteOps. The automated selection utilizing programmatic advertising platforms hasn’t helped. If you can program targeting algorithms, you can also program systems to attract the advertising.

Borrowing from other industries, like email, IAB Labs developed the Ads.txt specification. Ads.txt hopes to block fraud by creating an index of authorized resellers and publishers.

What is Ads.txt?

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. By creating a public record of Authorized Digital Sellers, ads.txt will create greater transparency in the inventory supply chain, and give publishers control over their inventory in the market, making it harder for bad actors to profit from selling counterfeit inventory across the ecosystem. As publishers adopt ads.txt, buyers will be able to more easily identify the Authorized Digital Sellers for a participating publisher, allowing brands to have confidence they are buying authentic publisher inventory.

You can actually see my ads.txt file, where I have both LiveIntent (our email ad platform) and Google Adsense (our display ad network) listed.

What is Ads.cert?

Ads.txt is a great way of authorizing an ad placement on your site. However, it doesn’t authenticate the source of the advertisement. Ads.cert is currently under development to do just that. Similar to the way blockchain technology works, Ads.cert will both ensure that you’re authorizing the ad placement, as well as authenticating the Demand Side Platform (or DSP).

Ads.cert, along with Ads.txt will ensure:

  1. Partner is authorized to sell.
  2. The ad inventory is authentic.
  3. The ad inventory has been unmodified.

There is some question as to whether or not a system this complex can process so many requests and data in real-time as needed. It remains to be seen.

Here’s a visual overview of the specifications from Smart AdServer, Fighting Fraud with Standards: Ads.txt and Ads.cert Explained.

ads txt cert fraud prevention

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and recognized expert on digital transformation. Doug is a Keynote and Marketing Public Speaker. He's the VP and cofounder of Highbridge, a firm specializing in assisting enterprise companies to digitally transform and maximize their technology investment utilizing Salesforce technologies. He's developed digital marketing and product strategies for Dell Technologies, GoDaddy, Salesforce, Webtrends, and SmartFOCUS. Douglas is also the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies and co-author of The Better Business Book.

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