Google Strengthens Ads.txt Enforcement

Google will make Ads.txt-authorized-only buying the default setting for its Display & Video 360 (formerly DoubleClick Bid Manager) platform by the end of the year, the company said Thursday.

A month ago, Google gave clients the option of only buying ads with approved Ads.txt files, but Display & Video 360’s default buying option still included inventory from publishers without Ads.txt files.

Ad inventory with Ads.txt files is more expensive and scarcer, but it helps marketers reduce ad fraud by avoiding purchases from unauthorized sellers. Marketers using Google’s Ads.txt-authorized-only setting now account for 15% of buys on the platform, said Pooja Kapoor, Google’s head of global strategy, programmatic and ecosystem health.

“The standard only works if more buyers take this approach,” Kapoor said. “We want to flip the current toggle by the end of 2018 so the default standard is authorized-only and you have to take the step of opting out for non-participating inventory.”

Google is making the announcement months before switching 360’s default setting so buyers can test and adjust to Ads.txt-based inventory.

Some of the marketers who have opted to only buy Ads.txt-authorized inventory for the past month are measuring the performance and price payoff, Kapoor said. “But we haven’t seen a shift back once people have adopted authorized-only,” she said.

Google also wants to gain traction with buyers and merchants before the holidays hit and businesses stop experimenting and commit to their fourth-quarter media plans.

The transition to authorized-only campaigns can be uncomfortable for agencies and vendors due to the increased cost and scarcity. Not every campaign or agency is subject to rigorous attribution or ROI requirements, but buyers must still address the higher costs and raised eyebrows – or worse – when a brand realizes the cheap inventory it’s bought for years was worthless.

But that’s hardly a reason not to push for stronger Ads.txt enforcement.

“If you look at the amount of protection you get from Ads.txt compared to its cost, which is zero, that’s a very compelling value case,” said Pete Kim, CEO of MightyHive, a programmatic tech company that released Ads.txt and ad fraud research this week with Google and The Guardian.

“It’s fairly obvious that the market hasn’t been disrupted that much, and any disruption that may have been is worth it,” Kim said.

Their research found evidence that unauthorized parties were claiming to sell inventory from The Guardian on the open exchange but not via DSPs that only purchased Ads.txt-authorized inventory.

Ninety percent of Google’s publisher clients and 80% of inventory across all exchanges it buys from have Ads.txt files, Kapoor said. “(But) as companies like MightyHive have shown, there’s a real need for buyers to commit to buy authorized-only.”

There are legitimate reasons why some publishers and advertisers have postponed Ads.txt adoption, Kapoor said. Some may rely on in-app or cross-device campaigns, for instance, and are waiting for finished mobile specs.

“The only people who really are going to benefit from Ads.txt adoption being delayed are folks we don’t want in the industry anyway,” Kim said.

Sarah Sluis contributed.

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