LET’S TALK ABOUT .TXT

How one small file breeds trust.

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

“An agree­ment can be ex­pressed quickly and clearly in words, but is only made ef­fec­tive by a rit­ual ges­ture: open, weapon­less hands stretched out toward one an­other, grasp­ing each other in a mu­tual hand­shake,” said Wal­ter Burk­ert.

The Assyr­ian King Shal­maneser III used hand­shakes to seal al­liances. The epic poet Homer de­scribed hand­shakes in his Iliad and Odyssey. In an­cient Rome the hand­shake was of­ten used as a sym­bol of friend­ship and loy­alty.

Through­out the ages signs of trust were cru­cial in so­lid­i­fy­ing al­liances and peace, and opened path­ways to the fu­ture.

Now, jour­ney through the ages, past an­cient Rome and Baby­lon, past Amer­i­can coloni­sa­tion, to the here and now.

The dig­i­tal age is upon us and ad space is ev­ery­where. A user is bom­barded by leader­boards, MPUs, na­tive ads, rich me­dia en­gage­ments and a whole plethora of for­mats on a daily ba­sis. Agen­cies duel one an­other in real time bid­ding, their trad­ing desk swords at each other’s throats. Sup­pli­ers and pub­lish­ers roam the dig­i­tal streets sell­ing pre­mium ads to the high­est bid­der, while repack­ag­ing rem­nant in­ven­tory. In the midst of this dust-rid­den arena, sur­rounded by adex­change glad­i­a­tors, a lone met­ric is left be­wil­dered: ad fraud.

Ad fraud has been a daunt­ing ques­tion swirling around the me­dia in­dus­try from the be­gin­ning of dig­i­tal time: “Are the im­pres­sions and clicks I am pay­ing for le­git­i­mate?” I have per­son­ally wit­nessed the demise of plat­forms in the re­gion due to ad fraud al­le­ga­tions, and red-hand­edly caught web­sites im­pres­sion stack­ing.

Done are the days of no-KPI MPU buy­ing, done are the days of ba­sic re­port­ing, done are the days of dig­i­tal ba­sic clients. The era of met­rics has arisen and the av­er­age me­dia em­ployee (be they client, agency or pub­lisher) no longer stares at dig­i­tal re­port­ing in be­fud­dle­ment but has the ap­ti­tude to ques­tion and chal­lenge. There­fore, as an in­dus­try we must ed­u­cate our­selves and rise against the tide of di­nosaur-es­que buy­ing and sell­ing of dig­i­tal ad space. En­ter Ads.txt. Ads.txt (‘ads’ stands for Au­tho­rised Dig­i­tal Sell- ers) is as sim­ple as its name im­plies: a text file. It seems al­most whim­si­cal in na­ture that a text file could solve the all-time prob­lem of ad fraud, but it’s a step in the right di­rec­tion.

So how ex­actly does Ads.txt work? It starts off with pub­lish­ers. The text file is added within the web servers that lists all com­pa­nies and ad ex­changes that are au­tho­rised to sell that pub­lisher’s ad in­ven­tory. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, ad ex­changes add the text file within the plat­form list­ing all the pub­lish­ers they are au­tho­rised to sell. Once the sell­ing side of the equa­tion has adopted this new tech, the buy­ing side (agency trad­ing desks and de­mand-side plat­forms) can check the files to make sure that the in­ven­tory they are pur­chas­ing is au­tho­rised.

Ads.txt has opened an op­por­tu­nity for the in­dus­try to say no to undis­closed sell­ing and push pub­lish­ers to le­git­imise the in­ven­tory they are pack­ag­ing to us. As an agency we can con­fi­dently tell our clients that their dig­i­tal me­dia bud­gets are al­lo­cated to ac­count­able in­ven­tory with no fear of wasted im­pres­sions and un­seen ads.

The num­ber of SSPs (sup­ply-side plat­forms) that ben­e­fit from “shady” re­selling will be af­fected di­rectly, as it would be ar­du­ous to con­tinue their sell­ing rit­u­als. The lives of the day-to-day ad ex­change buy­ers and sellers will be af­fected, as they now have to take into ac­count au­tho­rised in­ven­tory.

With all that said and done, will ads.txt re­ally mat­ter? The key to all this lies with the pub­lish­ers. If they em­brace this new cre­ation and ap­ply it cor­rectly they can lead the charge to end­ing ad fraud in our in­dus­try. The MENA re­gion is at a pin­na­cle mo­ment in dig­i­tal his­tory. The rate of dig­i­tal ac­cel­er­a­tion and in­te­gra­tion is stag­ger­ing and the knowl­edge spread­ing is utopian. We want to learn, we want to grow and we want to ex­cel. As agency em­ploy­ees we can push our re­gional pub­lish­ers to adopt ads.txt and we can set the trend. So I ask: what is hold­ing us back?

Armed with weapons such as ads.txt, those fight­ing ad fraud can bat­tle the im­pres­sion-stack­ing Hy­dra, wres­tle the Chimera of do­main spoof­ing and de­feat the Cy­clo­pean ar­bi­trage to emerge vic­to­ri­ous. This way we will be able to cre­ate a safer ad ex­change world where our me­dia spends can reach real users.

Are the im­pres­sions and clicks I am pay­ing for le­git­i­mate? I have per­son­ally wit­nessed the demise of plat­forms in the re­gion due to ad fraud al­le­ga­tions, and red-hand­edly caught web­sites im­pres­sion stack­ing.

HUS­SAM EL HAGE Dig­i­tal su­per­vi­sor at J3

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