Ads.txt adoption still under 50%: study

With more and more ads traded programmatically, the pressure is on to clean up the supply chain.

One crucial tool in the fight against ad fraud is growing in popularity, but is still not quite mainstream among publishers.

A new study by programmatic company Automatad found that adoption of the ad-fraud tool ads.txt is still not used by the majority of top Canadian publishers.

The New York-based company would like to see even greater use of ads.txt, a fraud-fighting text file developed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab in 2017. The tool has been called a “game-changer” by many in the industry, and can help advertisers ensure that their spend is directed to the right publishers and impressions are valid – but, as media leaders have pointed out, it’s only effective if it’s being used.

According to the study, which looked at the ads.txt files of 1,634 top Canadian publishers, 755 have the ads.txt files on their servers (about 41%). The sites studied were clawed from the 2,000 top sites in Canada for traffic; walled gardens and sites with extensions such as .edu and .gov were removed.

For publishing partners in Canada, Google is the most-used monetization partner registered on the pages, followed by AppNexus, OpenX, Index Exchange and Rubicon Project, according to the study.

The study also found that publishers have 155 accounts with 36 ad tech partners on average. And 32.83% of the ads.txt lines in the top publishers are for direct partners, the study found, while 66% of the lines go to resellers.

The IAB is also developing ads.cert. The bureau began developing ads.cert as the second stage of cleaning up the supply chain last fall.

With Zenith predicting that 98.6% of Canadian display ad dollars will be spent programmatically by 2020, the pressure is on agencies, publishers and ad tech companies to clean up the supply chain. Among the most persistent issues for programmatically traded ads are low viewability, spoofed domains and unsafe content – all sold at full-price.

But ads.txt, and soon ads.cert, can only be effective if publishers adopt it. According to a different firm, Pixalate, Canada was at 37% adoption last summer, indicating that popularity in the tool has risen since then. About 10% of publishers have also had errors on their pages.