Fighting Fraud in Programmatic with Ads.txt

On 29/11/2017 by Araceli Almada

Digital Ad inventory has been misrepresented for some time now and has grown immensely. This has been costly for the industry over the purchase of fake inventory, allowing fraudulent resellers to make easy money and get away with it. Unfortunately, a huge challenge in all advertising buying is fraud, which is a major concern when it comes to programmatic buying. 

So let’s first take a step back with a recap of what Programmatic buying is and then se what we are doing to fight it. 

What is Programmatic? 

Programmatic is technology that is used to automate and optimize the ad buying system in real time. It is an auction-based advertising format that involves a Demand-side platform (DSP), Supply-side platform (SSP), publishers, advertisers and ad exchanges.The Supply-side platform (SSP) is designed for the publishers who are the sellers of the ad space who make the space available. The Demand-side platform (DSP) is designed for the advertisers and brands who are the buyers in this system that bid on that particular ad space that they want.

The space essentially gets auctioned off to the highest bidder and their ad is placed in that space they bid on. The DSP automates the online advertising purchase process for advertisers who use DSP's to monitor their advertisement campaigns. The publishers are the ones who sell the ad inventory and the Ad exchange is what connects the publishers and advertisers to further help the auction process. Now let's move on to how Programmatic attracts ad fraud. 

What types of Ad Fraud are in Programmatic?

The openness of the programmatic advertising marketplace allows fraudsters to take advantage especially on the Supply-side. Programmatic has seen frequent forms of fraud that are either non-human traffic or human traffic, such as invisible Ads and Domain spoofing. Fraud occurs in many ways such as when fraudulent publishers pretend to be another publisher by creating an account under a domain that they don't own. This is called "Domain Spoofing." Domain Spoofing is the form of ad fraud on a shady site that imitates a premium publisher or a programmatic exchange that secures revenue for advertising placements which are never actually seen. Advertisers purchase inventory from these publishers not knowing which are real and which are fake. 

Similar to domain spoofing is Ad Bundling which is when some publishers and site networks can bundle under one Site ID in the real-time bidding system. Advertisers purchase the inventory on this Site ID and do not realize their ads may appear on a different site inside the bundle making the inventory misrepresented. The fraudulent publishers also generate false content and send false traffic to their websites to increase fake pageviews.In Non-Human traffic is usually seen as Bot fraud such as simple bots, sophisticated bots, and botnets. This type of fraud occurs by generating fake impressions, clicks, submissions which lead to fake conversions. 

Ads.txt is one way to end fraud! 

In May of this year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau announced ads.txt. This solution was introduced to put a stop to this fraud issue and prevent unauthorized inventory sales to occur. ads.txt, (Authorized Digital Sellers), is a solution that increases transparency in the programmatic advertising system. This means Publishers will have a text file on their web servers that will show all of the companies that are approved to sell their inventory due to a specific ID. This leads to a safer system where brands can buy authentic publisher inventory without the worry of it being counterfeit. Bidders can also check their tags to see the ads.txt file, to verify that their resellers and publisher have a connection. 

Ads.txt is a secure system that first starts with the publisher's authorized list of companies that is publicly shared. Then the Programmatic buyers can search for the publisher's ads.txt files to create a list of authorized resellers for each participating publisher. This allows the buyers to check the legitimacy of the inventory they purchase. ads.txt is a preformatted index that includes a Domain name of the advertising system, Publishers account ID, Type of account (Direct or Reseller), and Certification authority ID. This solution will show and guarantee who the real programmatic re-sellers are to brands and agencies. This technical solution is designed to protect publishers from any unauthorized companies that are selling their ads along programmatic ad exchanges.This allows sites to declare where their inventory is sold creating trust in Programmatic. 

Ads.txt has been implemented by Ligatus 

Everyone has to do their part to fight fraud in the Programmatic supply chain. We are addressing the Ad Fraud problem head on with the Ads.Txt solution in all our network. We have sent all of our partners their ads.txt ID (Publisher ID) for their Ligatus placements and/or video player that are a part of our premium network. This will prevent the sale of counterfeit inventory and work towards eliminating the industry's ad fraud problem in the programmatic inventory supply chain. 

At Ligatus, we offer high-quality solutions and therefore we are engaged in providing a transparent safe market that our publishers and advertisers look for. We want to take away the critical challenges that publishers encounter and help create a better advertising experience for everyone. By providing you with this solution you prevent unauthorized impressions in programmatic transactions. We do our part to fight the ad fraud problem and encourage this initiative to clean up the industry. 

If you would like more information regarding our native advertising solutions, Contact us today!