What is ads.txt?
To combat fraud and maximise transparency in the advertising ecosystem, the Authorised Digital Sellers (ads.txt) aims to stop profits spoofed inventory. This is a type of fraud where fraudsters sell fake inventory and collect the profits. Read more about the issues of transparency and counterfeit inventory here.
How does ads.txt work?
Every website that has advertising contains an ads.txt file containing a list of the authorised sellers. Demand partners (buyers, DSPs, etc.) can check these files and confirm if the ad tech platform domain and account number match the data in the bid requests they receive; if there is no match, the request might be considered fraud and rejected.
From IAB, About Ads.txt
How to set up Ads.txt with Improve Digital
If you own the website domain:
- Login to 360 Polaris and hover over the account name to see the Publisher ID
- Create a text file and paste:
improvedigital.com, [publisher ID], DIRECT
- Upload the file to every website at the root domain, for example:
If you don't own the website domain:
- Login to 360 Polaris and hover over the account name
- Send the following information to your publishers:
improvedigital.com, (Your Publisher ID), RESELLER
Optional extras in ads.txt
It's possible to add extra information into the file, including:
Any additional information, lines which are comments must start with a hashtag '#'.
Shows contact info for content providers support team. Can be an email address, webpage, etc. There can be multiple lines, each one should start 'contact='.
Direct the crawler to an ads.txt file on the subdomain. Used if the sellers differ from the root domain. The ads.txt file in the subdomain is not associated with the root domain, i.e. it's considered as a different site. If there are multiple subdomains, mention them in separate lines (like in the Ads.txt example below).
- Certification Authority ID
An optional additional field in each ad tech provider listing is an ID from an independent certification authority, which would effectively verify if this ad tech provider is genuine and trusted. Improve Digital has trusted relationships with demand partners and does not make use of this field as yet.
In the following example:
- the publisher sells their inventory through their own Improve Digital account,
- also via a third party who happen to use a different Improve Digital account,
- has subdomains with which are sold through different sellers to the root domain,
- and wants to include contact information
therefore the ads.txt file would be:
#ads.txt for thenewswebsite.com
improvedigital.com, 2001, DIRECT
improvedigital.com, 1988, RESELLER
Tip: lines starting with # symbol are considered comments and are ignored
- Can there be an ads.txt on just one of the main sites I own?
This is possible using a redirect from the site to the ads.txt on another domain. Only one redirect is currently allowed. More information is available in the IAB spec linked below. Ideally each domain should have this file, even if all domains are owned and operated by the same content owner, and even if the file is identical in content.
- Does the file have a cache? If yes, how long is it?
The file is scanned by DSP crawlers every so often, possibly several times a week, but this depends entirely on the DSP's technology and settings. It is not expected that the ads.txt file will be regularly updated.
- Does the file have to put onto a website or is it also possible to do it via a 301/302 to a CDN?
Yes this is possible, see the IAB spec linked below.
- I have tags from other platforms such as Criteo, OpenX etc. in 360 Polaris. What do I put in my ads.txt file?
If you are using 360 Polaris as an ad server and have third-party tags booked, your ads.txt file should list your account on the third-party platforms. Although the tag is competes in the 360 Polaris auction, the ad request runs via the third-party platform, not via Improve Digital demand partners.
- How will DSPs use ads.txt?
We are aware that several large DSPs will aim to cease trading inventory this year that is not verified with ads.txt, some as early as end of October 2017.
- What happens if I don't have an ads.txt file?
Buying partners will assume that there are no authorised programmatic sellers.
- Should ads.txt be setup on apps?
Currently there is no need or method for ads.txt to be applied to apps. This standard is being created now by IAB.
Note: this article is based on Ads.txt Spec Version 1.0.1
For further information and help contact Improve Digital Support team