Digital ad fraud is currently plaguing the online advertising industry to the sum of approximately $7 billion annually. In addition to marketing dollars lost on bots driving fake traffic and impressions, domain spoofing has also become a major concern for advertisers. In fact, Business Insider recently flagged 10-30 million phony impressions, largely due to this phenomenon. Domain spoofing occurs when a seller fraudulently labels inventory from seemingly reputable sources like CNN or The New York Times and then resells the inventory to unsuspecting media buyers. The result: Ad spend is wasted on something that’s never seen and publishers lose out on a legitimate sale.  The good news is the industry is fed up, and many are taking steps to prevent inventory fraud, including PCH/Media.

Today, PCH/Media, in an effort to do our part in the fight against fraud, rolled out ads.txt on all of our sites.  This means that we have embedded a file in our server that states exactly which companies PCH/Media sells its inventory to. Buyers can now download all the ads.txt files and use it to target their campaigns, ensuring buyers are only dealing with a trusted source.  

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab developed the ads.txt project with the goal to increase transparency in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. Ads.txt creates a public record of Authorized Digital Sellers (ads), giving publishers control over their inventory available in the market and making it more difficult for the bad actors to profit from selling fake inventory. Ads.txt also enables buyers to easily identify the Authorized Digital sellers of a participating publisher, so brands can have confidence they are buying authentic inventory.

Just as CARFAX reports reinvented the used-car industry by eliminating shady sellers, ads.txt has the potential to reinvent the way advertisers buy, providing detailed insights into a publisher’s inventory. Ads.txt is quickly becoming more popular among publishers. Since its launch just this past summer, almost half of the top 10,000 publishers have an ads.txt. file, according to Ad Ops Insider.

As ad fraud has become so prevalent in the industry, brands and publishers alike are feeling pressure from industry leaders and organizations, including IAB, the Media Rating Council, and the Trustworthy Accountability Group to take further steps to combat ad fraud. Brands and publishers must work together to increase transparency and viewability in order to form trusting partnerships and ensure the integrity of the digital ad ecosystem. With today’s announcement, PCH/Media has reaffirmed its commitment to greater transparency in digital advertising.