How the Small ads.txt File Can Help Your Brand Win Big in Programmatic

This month the Australian chapter of the Interactive Advertising Bureau released the ads.txt product aimed at solving a major programmatic marketing headache – counterfeit inventory.

ads.txt takes away the gamble of putting your brand’s fate into the hands of third parties who (may or may not) ensure that your ad inventory is genuine and brand-safe.

Despite the progress that’s been made in automated media buying, the industry still leans towards the opaque end of the transparency spectrum.

The Future of Programmatic Transparency

Until now, there was no simple and reliable way to guarantee that ‘what you buy is what you get’ for programmatically-acquired media. Sure, solutions exist that track such metrics as viewability, what percentage of your clicks were generated by bots or what yadda-yadda is the yadda-yadda percentage of your overall yadda-yadda.

But there are still no 100% guarantees. Not even 99.9%.

Just ask Washington Post, Gatorade or any of the other brands implicated in the recent ‘Breitbart’ scandal. They’ll be only too happy to get the violin out and play a sad #programmaticfail song to any journalist who will lend an ear.

Adhering to the adage that ‘good things come in small packages,’ ads.txt provides a lightweight alternative to existing convoluted measurement technology.

That’s All Wonderful But What Is ads.txt Really?

From a technical perspective, the ads.txt solution is simple to understand and just as easy to implement. As simple as the robots.txt file that plays a crucial, yet understated, role in your SEO strategy.

If you’ve experienced the joy of (re)launching your brand’s website only to have it suddenly drop off Google, you will know the importance of the tiny but mighty robots.txt file. It tells search engines which pages to index and which ones to ignore.

Similar to the symbiosis of a search engine and the robots.txt file, the idea behind ads.txt is to create a search engine-like public index of legitimate media sellers. The ads.txt file then plays the role of a robots.txt equivalent that buyers can reference when purchasing inventory.

Advertiser, Meet Your Authorized Digital Seller

This is achieved by having an ads.txt file sit on a publisher’s server, which then explicitly tells prospective advertisers whether the sellers they wish to engage with are actually authorized to sell those ads.

They are called Authorized Digital Sellers (ADS) and the onus of declaring them falls on the shoulders of a publisher or distributor. Such an approach removes much of the current ambiguity from the programmatic supply chain.

Authorized Seller. Unauthorized Seller. Who Cares?

Surely, your brand will be ok with your current programmatic setup. Will anyone really care?

Well your CEO cares about not being on the receiving end of a media scandal. And your CFO cares about not spending money on fake inventory. Oh, and the media care. They would love to get their hands on yet another juicy story that comes with a #programmaticfail hashtag appended.

Given the high-profile cases of programmatic screw-ups that have plagued headlines for the last few years, everyone actually cares a great deal. Programmatic marketing can do wonderful things for your media strategy but it can also pave the way to brand meme infamy.

How Can Your Brand Benefit From ads.txt?

Think of ads.txt as being the teeny-weeny text file that can save you from blowing up on the internet for all the wrong reasons.

The most straightforward way to enjoy the positive karma ads.txt will bestow on your brand is to ensure that your programmatic supply chain partners have this small but important file sitting on their servers.

Your brand wins, publishers win and the programmatic industry wins. #programmaticwinwinwin

But Wait, There’s More…

Check out our ads.txt infographic, which explains the solution in a simple and visually-accessible way.