We are all familiar with ads.txt, which was created by the Interactive Advertising Bureau to combat the newest threats faced by the programmatic industry such as domain impersonation and illegally inventory sales. On March 13, The IAB Tech Lab unveiled the latest version of mobile ads txt designed for OTT and mobile in-app advertising.

In fact, it is estimated that about $19 billion of the total ad spend goes right into the scammers’ pockets. Even though App-ads.txt is similar to ads.txt, there could be some road bumps ahead as publishers, advertisers, and ad tech vendors attempt to adopt this new technology. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at what app-ads.txt is.

What is App-ads.txt?

It is best to think of app-ads.txt as ads.txt for in-app and OTT advertising. Both OTT and mobile app publishers can list all of the ad tech vendors that have permission to resell their inventory. The programmatic ad buyers can browse through these lists in order to be certain that the company who claims to offer mobile inventory is actually authorized to do so. For example, let’s say that advertisers want to place ads on HBO’s mobile app or OTT. Thanks to app-ads.txt they can do so knowing that they are in fact buying advertising on this mobile app and not bankrolling scammers who prey on advertising money.

Reducing the app spoofings is important because ad fraud has become rampant in mobile in-app advertising and while it is less pervasive in OTT apps, there are ways for scammers to swindle advertisers who buy OTT inventory. Given that spending on OTT will increase and spending on mobile advertising hit a record high last year topping off at $76.17 billion, you can expect the scammers to get even more creative to get a piece of this pie. Here’s what industry already managed to achieve according to adx trend report 2018. The next step is a mobile media transformation that’s gonna be fueled by app-ads.txt.

in-app ads.txt

How Does App-ads.txt Work?  

The DSP that would like to make a bid on an inventory scans the app-ads.txt file in order to determine which sources have the authority to sell the app’s inventory. It will only accept bid requests from the sources located in the file if they have been authorized by the app developer. The implementation will look like following:

  • Include the developer website URL in the app listing. (The advertising platforms will use this website to verify the app-ads.txt file.)

  • Connect with all of the ad sources in order to get their app-ads.txt line.

  • Publish a mobile txt file.

  • Upload the file into the root of your domain.

App-ads.text opens the door for adopting ads.cert, a protocol designed to make cryptographically signed bid requests standard.

how in-app ads.txt works

What’s So Important About It?

Expanding ads.txt to mobile allows apps to leverage the ads.txt protocols by connecting all of their offerings in the app store with websites. The text files will contain a list of all the sellers who have the right to sell the inventory from programmatic open ad exchanges, which opens the door for a new level of transparency. This also puts developers in the driver’s seat in terms of managing and controlling their authorizations. The risk of domain spoofing is also reduced since developer’s domain is used for creating a universal namespace.

How Can We associate App-ads.txt with OTT or Mobile App?

This is possible via the app listings that the app stores make available online. The IAB is banking on app stores to add some HTML code for every app listing that gives the app’s website domain. As well, bundle and store ID will be added. The website will show the domains where buyers will be able to find a publisher’s app-ads.txt file online, while the bundle and store IDs can be used to match against the ones that were included in the bid requests. Even though the IAB is hoping that the app stores will add such a code, there is a good chance they will not. Without their support, there is really no way to be 100% certain that an app-ads.txt file corresponds to a given app. A potential solution could be for Apple and Google to require a specific domain which will be listed in the app store. Right now only Google Play supports app-adds.txt.

Ads.txt for in-app: Overcoming challenges

App-ads.txt offers a lot of assurances for publishers, but in order to really ascertain the inventory on the SSP ads.cert is needed. Think of it as buying a diamond ring. First, you need to make sure that you are buying from an authorized dealer and then you need to make sure that the diamond is genuine. Also, the conflict with the app stores described above will need to be resolved before app-ads.txt can be fully implemented (check our SDK). Today, when buyers receive an ad request from a mobile app, they do not know whether it came from the iOS or Android app store. Therefore a global namespace is needed in order to find out from which app store you can get the necessary ads.txt information. This is important for brand safety enforcement purposes as well.

SmartyAds remains constantly vigilant regarding any new ad fraud protection methods that appear on the programmatic advertising market and has all the necessary tools to combat them. We are constantly implementing the latest anti-fraud tools on our mobile monetization platform so that you could sell inventory quickly and efficiently.

Contact us today to reinforce your monetization strategy with advanced solutions for publishers!

Written by
IRINA KOVALENKO, CMO OF SMARTYADS
April 2019