“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Anne Frisbie, senior vice president of global programmatic and North America at InMobi.
As a declared list of authorized ad resellers for publishers, Ads.txt has proven enormously useful in the fight against ad fraud. The Ads.txt list of approved ad partners is widely available and transparent, reducing the likelihood of spammers, fraudsters or other unauthorized players entering the ecosystem.
Ads.txt adoption rates within browser-based environments, including mobile web, have risen rapidly since being introduced in 2017, but what about the mobile in-app environment?
In-app ad fraud has almost doubled year over year [PDF]. Only through collective action and consensus can the mobile industry implement an effective fraud-fighting solution for the in-app environment.
The industry was making good progress [PDF] on implementing Ads.txt for in-app environments earlier this year but we’ve recently run into strong headwinds. Dependencies on app stores are slowing down the progress.
For any of the app-based ad fraud solutions that have been proposed so far to be truly effective, it needs buy-in and integration at the app store level, because the app stores provide a fairly simple way in. The IAB hoped to use app stores’ “sellerUrl” field to retrieve the Ads.txt location or, ideally, the app stores would create a standardized field for in-app Ads.txt.
If app stores don’t support Ads.txt and its implementation, then Ads.txt for mobile apps likely won’t happen. If the app stores don’t get onboard, a third party could possibly create a standardized API to collect apps’ identifying metadata.
An in-app solution that was supposed to be rolled out already will now not be in place until 2019 at the earliest.
In June, the IAB Tech Lab released its Mobile App Solution for Ads.txt guideline document draft [PDF] and collected public feedback through July. App stores may have been reluctant to take the lead previously, although that may be changing soon, with pressure building on all players in the ecosystem to take a stronger stance for transparency and against fraud.
This is a prime example of how a full consensus is crucial to winning the fight against ad fraud. If a small number of players are not on board with a solution, then the whole endeavor grinds to a halt.
The industry has banded together for the common good before. For example, when it became apparent that VPAID video tags didn’t work well outside of browsers, the mobile in-app advertising industry joined the IAB to push for VAST standards, which eliminated the two- to three-second delay for end users in in-app environments. This was a yearslong process, but today VAST is the top standard for in-app video advertising.
As long as the industry continues to work together and bring everyone in the supply chain to the table, I’m confident that we’ll be able to implement Ads.txt for the in-app environment and more effectively combat mobile ad fraud. All of us – publishers, advertisers, app stores, etc. – need to continue making noise here, as it’s in all of our best interests to resolve these issues.