Ads.txt: One Step Forward on the Long Road to Eliminating Fraud

Ads.txt: One Step Forward on the Long Road to Eliminating Fraud

Back in May of this year, the IAB released their guidance around what would be their next initiative to protect advertisers, publishers and consumers against ad fraud. Ads.txt, put simply, is a text file that domains publish as a publicly accessible notice that clearly states who is an authorized reseller of their inventory. In doing so, buyers are able to tell whether or not their supply partners are actually authorized partners of the domain in question.

The timing for this blog post isn’t coincidental. The intention here was initially to say that Bidtellect has developed a crawler to guarantee that, when this information is available, we’re checking against the ads.txt file to ensure that we’re only buying from the appropriate resellers. We recognize the importance of protecting advertisers from fraudulent activity on the Internet and ensure that we are complying with all industry standards.

However, despite industry leaders investing time and resources into developing protocols that will make digital ecosystems safer for everyone involved, there is still a ton of work to be done. As of today, based on the current ads.txt spec and adoption to date, there’s still more than 85% of the ad ecosystem that is not compliant or simply not supported or acknowledged by the ads.txt spec.

Challenge with Industry Adoption

The first issue is adoption. Adoption thus far has been relatively slow, though it is gaining a bit of traction. A month after the initial guidance was released, it looked like just about 1% of domains had published their ads.txt file. Fast-forward to September, that number is closer to 13%. Keeping in mind that ads.txt only applies for web/domain inventory. Although the IAB acknowledges this shortcoming and specifies that future iterations will consider how to close the gap on in-app inventory, with such a low adoption and nothing in place for in-app, we’re still ways out from realizing the potential impact.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, for us to all reap the benefits of this initiative, we have to tackle it together. If we’re not collectively onboard, implementing support based on guidance, participating in discussions and actively policing each other based on loopholes or would-be best practices, then we will not be positioned to achieve the initial objective: rid the Internet of fraudulent activity and bad actors.


In addition to the adoption challenge, there’s been confusion on behalf of domains, SSPs and DSPs acting as the buyer. When a domain publishes an ads.txt file, they’re supposed to include a few fields, one of them being the publisher/partner ID of an approved reseller, along with the domain of this reseller. In cases where ads.txt crawlers are scanning for both the publisher ID AND the domain, there have been mismatches. This can be due to the domain improperly documenting the SSPs domains. This can already be observed in a number of domains who have improperly documented the domains of the SSPs they work with. In the cases where some folks are choosing to also match on the SSP domain in addition to the publisher ID, this can lead to a false positive.

This highlights another shortcoming, in which domains have not really published which domain names to use, as stated in the actual spec, “ideally the SSP or Exchange publishes a document detailing what domain name to use.” With the haphazard release of the guidance, pressure from the industry to support it, and everyone looking to be compliant, errors are certainly prone to be commonplace and this is only one instance of that.


Bidtellect remains committed to being an active participant in the rally against fraud. Outside of leveraging partners in the space such as IAS and AdmantX, we’ve also spent a considerable amount of time and effort in developing our own methodologies and technologies to not only flag but also report potential instances in which fraudulent activity appears to be occurring. Not to say that ads.txt isn’t a step in the right direction, though, once again, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Additionally, we need to find a greater motivation to be proactive. Thus far, the industry has been reactive to fraudsters. We need to shift mentalities in order to stay one step ahead of them, not developing tech based on the breadcrumbs they leave us.

To sum it up, there is both good news and bad news. The bad? Ad fraud will not be eradicated overnight. The good? Leaders in the industry and major stakeholders throughout the supply chain – brands, publishers, and technology companies – are part of the conversation and those that aren’t will be identified as untrustworthy. There is a unified recognition that fraud is a problem plaguing the integrity of advertising and the industry is taking the right steps and initiating the right discussions to course correct to hopefully restore the faith.

Viewing Native Advertising Through A Broader Content Marketing Lens

Viewing Native Advertising Through A Broader Content Marketing Lens

Bidtellect’s second quarterly report for 2017 again analyzes the billions of data points flowing through our Native Demand Side Platform (nDSP) to reveal important trends and insights into the Native advertising ecosystem for marketers. Several trends initially spotted in our first quarter report are now manifesting themselves more broadly and consistently than ever. This report focuses on these trends and their broader implications within digital marketing.

Broader Content Marketing Context

There is an exponential amount of content available online that consumers and businesses are increasingly seeking out. As consumers, we rely on valuable content to learn, educate ourselves and discover new things. The increase in these behaviors has made it more important that marketers learn more about how to view content consumption data through the broader lens of content marketing initiatives. Content marketing is a broad genre in itself and there are multiple ways in which business owners could strategize their content to fit the bill – could be through Search Engine Optimization that is, SEO techniques (by companies like Digital Marketing Service Pro) or by improved engagement techniques. By measuring the impact of these content marketing initiatives, marketers are able to make data-driven decisions that will ultimately lead to greater ROI on these efforts.

Not just online businesses, offline enterprises too need to strategize the boost of their business using modern techniques. One way of doing it is by using digital signage. It helps provide businesses or retailers a platform to display their content in innovative ways, be it just product info or advertisements based on their products and services. If you are a business owner and you want to adopt one such technique, you might need the help of for better assistance in upgrading your business’s marketing strategy.

Highlights of Bidtellect’s Q2 2017 Findings

  • Cross-Device Strategy in Native is More Important than Ever
  • Measuring Engagement is More Valuable than CTR
  • Information-rich, Relevant Content has Highest Engagement

Importance of A Cross-Device Native Strategy

For the past four quarters, we have consistently seen that CTRs are higher on mobile than desktop. However, there is deeper engagement on desktop than mobile.

CTR by Device Q2 2017: Mobile CTR was higher than desktop by 65%
According to eMarketer, nearly four in five internet users worldwide will use a mobile phone to access the internet in 2017. Mobile is clearly the future of digital media and the way consumers choose to engage with content and brands. But although the consumer is already there, the experience has not quite achieved the same caliber as desktop. There is a clear distinction between how content renders on desktop versus mobile. For example, if you create a beautiful infographic, chances are, unless you have created a mobile-friendly version, the infographic will not render on mobile which will cause high bounce rates. In addition, the conversion path has to be seamless on mobile, otherwise, consumers will get frustrated and not complete the sale.
Native ad formats play a critical role in facilitating a better mobile experience. eMarketer also found that Native mobile will represent 64.5% of all US mobile display ad spending this year. By definition, Native offers an enhanced, more immersive content experience for users, so it follows that these formats would make a perfect fit for mobile environments. The small screens on mobile devices led to the advent and widespread adoption of the feed. In-feed placements match the form and function of the surrounding content within that feed, creating a nondisruptive, organic mobile experience.
Consumers have high expectations for their content and will only spend time-consuming content that offers a personalized experience with valuable content. The challenge is that the utilization of multiple devices and platforms gave rise to highly fragmented media consumption. Brands are responding to these expectations and inevitable fragmentation by creating and distributing content that caters to each specific distribution environment. This specialization is even more critical on mobile than desktop, where the experience is inherently less user-friendly.

Content Marketing Measurement

Many brands still struggle with how to measure the success of their content marketing and distribution strategies and campaigns. Some struggle with identifying the best metrics to use and some still turn to less sophisticated metrics such as CTR because that is what is the most comfortable.
Brands are creating content for their audiences for a variety of reasons, so before setting the metric, brands must set an objective. Are they hoping to achieve brand awareness? Downloads or signups? Do they want to ensure they’re doing everything for their local outreach, be it through San Diego SEO targeting or through a more broad-brush approach? This is really important to identify beforehand in order to get the most ROI from content. There are a couple of things to take into consideration at the very beginning stages. Why was the content created in the first place? What is the intention and target within the sales funnel? We see that specific types of content targeted to upper, mid or lower funnel consumers won’t back into certain performance metrics. It’s like fitting a circle into a box, you can squeeze it in there, but when it comes out it will be wrinkled.
This quarter, 44% of marketers used CTR as a primary indicator of success, 37% used engagement and 19% conversions. Compared to Q1 2017, engagement is up significantly and conversions dropped.

Specifically, engagement increased from 23% to 37% and conversions dropped from 40% to 19%. While we recognize the importance of CTR for advertisers, there are additional optimization tools that are significant when analyzing engagement. As a marketer, would you rather know if someone clicked on your ad or engaged with your brand on a deeper level?

Engagement by Category

In the second quarter, Technology, Travel, Business and Food & Drink were the top engaging content categories. During the summer months, Travel and Food & Drink content is highly sought after due to warm weather, summer BBQs and vacations.

Report Summary

The second quarter of 2017 saw a continuation and expansion of several key trends in consumer engagement within digital advertising. Cross-device measurement and, importantly, the nuanced differences in consumer response and engagement on different devices is more critical than ever. Advertising specifically tailored to device type and delivered natively is resonating the best with consumers compared to other strategies.
Importantly, measurement beyond CTR, and using post-click metrics as actionable intelligence, is taking on greater urgency than ever. Consumers are showing a pronounced tendency to ignore ads in favor of paid content, not only because they are contextually relevant, but because overall they deliver a better user experience.
The broader implications of the second quarter data suggest a much broader context for Native advertising within the content marketing sphere. It is essential that marketers view these data through that lens, as a successful content distribution strategy will lead to a stronger content marketing strategy.
Click here for reports from Q3 2016, Q4 2016 and Q1 2017.

About This Report

Bidtellect’s Quarterly Native Report was created to provide advertisers with important insights and trends in the Native Advertising industry. Bidtellect’s platform processes over 5 billion Native auctions daily across 14 million distinctly targetable placements, and this number continues to grow quarter over quarter. We collect data from the start of an auction through post-click consumer activity including but not limited to the metrics captured in this report.