The Guardian joins IAB push for publishers to ‘clean up’ programmatic ad chain

As the programmatic advertising industry battles with widespread fraud, the Interactive Advertising Bureau has drafted publishers to join its campaign encouraging the use of its ads.txt standard.

“From a Guardian standpoint globally one of the things we’re really keen on is cleaning up the supply chain,” Tony Bell, Guardian Australia’s national sales director, told Mumbrella.

“Where the money flows is the key point”: Guardian Australia’s Tony Bell

With the industry currently undergoing a crisis of confidence, ads.txt is an initiative to clean up part of the programmatic advertising chain by allowing publishers to publicly declare the companies authorised to sell their digital inventory.

“What we are being told by agency partners is over the course of the next two or three years more and more of our inventory will be traded automatically,” said Bell. “Whether that’s through the open exchanges, private marketplaces or automated guaranteed – so we’ve got to be prepared for that 100% automated world and we’ve got to ensure our inventory is accurately reflected in market.”

The ads.txt file is similar to robots.txt which webmasters can add to their sites telling browsers and search engines which parts of their sites to index. In the case of ads.txt, it tells the programmatic robots which companies are authorised to sell inventory on the site.

To date, IAB Australia claims over 200 Australian publishers have adopted the standard including The Guardian Australia, News Corp Australia, Fairfax Media and Mamamia. The organisation is hoping for 1,000 organisations to join the program which was launched by the IAB in New York earlier this year.

“Mass adoption of ads.txt will benefit the entire digital advertising ecosystem,” noted Jonas Jaanimagi, executive consultant IAB Australia.

“Sellers will be protected from spoofing and buyers can buy programmatically with greater confidence from domains with this simple solution in place. The wide-scale adoption of ads.txt will give major brands peace of mind that their marketing messages will only appear on verified domains, significantly improving brand safety and eliminating any risk of ad fraud.”

While ads.txt addresses outright fraud by middlemen selling nonexistent ad space – the UK’s Financial Times this year discovered 300 accounts selling inventory purporting to be on the FT site– it doesn’t eliminate other types of digital advertising malpractice.

Bell described to Mumbrella some of the other measures The Guardian has been taking to improve digital advertising performance: “When ad fraud started to become a big issue in the US, we redesigned our site to adapt for viewability by adopting sticky ads, lazy loading ads, that sort of thing to ensure viewability rates are high.”

Ultimately, Bell sees initiatives like ads.txt as critical to the advertising industry overcoming  the problem of digital fraud.

“Where the money flows is the key point. If you’ve got GroupM, Publicis onboard – and  I’m sure Omnicom won’t be far behind – if all those big buying points say ‘Hey we’re only go to buy through ads.txt because it’s guaranteed not to be fraud’, that’s a big statement,” concluded Bell. “Once those dollars start flowing through those channels to verified sites, everyone will have to get on board.”



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