The digital advertising ecosystem is complicated and opaque. Over time, this has created an environment where fraud is rampant.
For publishers, this means bad ads, invasive ads, malvertising, and more. We’ve worked with many of our partners to spend countless hours and millions of dollars combating these plagues. We’ve seen a significant amount of progress, with massively improved user experience around advertising! There’s still lots more to be done, but we’ve come a long way in the last few years.
For advertisers, this means a whole different set of issues. Criminals effectively steal their money by running ads fraudulently, whether through fake domains, bot traffic, shady resellers, or any number of other tactics used to defraud advertisers.
Just as the publishing community has taken many steps to combat fraud, advertisers are doing the same. Increased transparency is key.
Advertisers are asking themselves, What sites are we buying on? What companies are representing these sites? What channels are we buying through?
And they want clear and straightforward answers to those questions.
Thankfully, there have been three major developments recently that are revolutionizing transparency in the industry.
Ads.txt was one of the industry’s first big transparency initiatives. You might know this as a text file that lives on your site that lets buyers see the companies authorized to sell advertising for your site. (While many publishers have to manage this for themselves, it’s something we manage directly for most AdThrivers!)
Ads.txt helps buyers know where to spend their money safely. They know not to buy ads from a given website if those ad spaces are available through an intermediary that is not listed in that site’s ads.txt file. Ads.txt was a massive win for advertisers and had a significant impact on cutting down on fraud.
There is a new initiative rolling out called sellers.json. In the same way ads.txt lets a publisher show what companies sell its inventory, sellers.json allows an intermediary (that’s how AdThrive is classified) to show advertisers the publishers it works with. It provides a way to double-check ads.txt and lets advertisers protect against other types of fraudulent sellers.
Sellers.json is a large JSON file that lists every domain we represent and answers the question for advertisers, “When I spend this money, who is getting paid?” Specifically, they want to know the name of the company or person who receives the checks.
That means in AdThrive’s sellers.json file, whatever name is on your payment from us must be in that file. If you receive payments to your company name, your company name will be there. However, if you receive payments to your personal name, your personal name will be in the file.
Unlike publicly-available domain registration information that includes your name, mailing address, and email address unless you register by proxy, sellers.json only includes a name. If you have payments set up to go to you personally and you don’t want your name included in sellers.json, you can set up a company to receive payments. It’s generally a pretty painless process!
3. SupplyChain object
There’s one more new transparency specification coming out soon, called SupplyChain object. This one really gets into the weeds by tying every single ad impression to a particular site and a specific intermediary. This way buyers can confirm that a given ad impression they’re bidding on came only through approved channels!
What does this mean for publishers?
This triumvirate of standards (ads.txt, sellers.json, and SupplyChain object) will increase advertisers’ trust in buying on the open web. Ultimately, these drive more demand toward quality publishers — like everyone working with AdThrive!
We’re extremely supportive of these new transparency standards and how they help everyone in the industry who is doing things the right way. So much so that we recently joined the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the industry trade group that sets all of the standards around digital advertising.
Now and in the coming months, there are a lot of decisions being made about the future of advertising — both inside the industry and in external realms like government policy and regulations. It’s critical that independent publishers have a voice in the midst of big platforms and media companies currently dominating the discussion.
Our team is excited to stand for publishers and participate in these pivotal decisions, so we can help make sure they’re positive for AdThrive publishers and for the whole digital advertising ecosystem.