The following article first appeared in AdExchanger's "The Sell Sider" and was written by VRTCAL's director of demand partnerships, Bijan Ziaei. Bijan discusses how ads.cert prevents fraud and what is keeping it from being more widely adopted by the industry. The full article is reprinted below. You can also read it here.
by AdExchanger // Wednesday, August 26th, 2020 – 1:35 pm
The Sell Sider
” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas
on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Bijan Ziaei, director of demand
partnerships at VRTCAL.
Publishers, advertisers and ad tech vendors all support reducing ad fraud
and increasing marketplace transparency. Yet, one of our most powerful
tools, ads.cert, remains on the sidelines.
And we need to kick-start adoption.
We need ads.cert because ad fraud is difficult to measure
Earlier this year, the ISBA released a
on the United Kingdom’s programmatic supply chain which found that 15% of
spending was “untraceable.” Perhaps even more alarming, 88% of the 267
million impressions analyzed couldn’t be matched or properly investigated.
So, while publishers and advertisers are victims of ad fraud, the extent of
the fraud can’t be measured. While various kinds of fraud hamper the supply
chain, we’re left to speculate, largely through anecdotal evidence, about
which forms are the most common and costly.
Where should we put our resources to disrupt fraudsters? Should we
prioritize fighting domain spoofing or unauthorized inventory sales? What
about ad format fraud? The deceptive practice of repackaging display
requests to sell as “premium” video for higher CPMs is one that surely
hurts our industry.
We ought to be able to answer how widespread each type of fraud is, and how
much money it siphons out of the supply chain, but we can’t because the
information we need isn’t available with the current set of anti-fraud
Why is ads.cert such a powerful tool?
While ads.txt and app-ads.txt let publishers whitelist approved advertisers
and resellers, neither validates the information that passes between the
buyer and seller. Going one step further, sellers.json and the OpenRTB
SupplyChain object help buyers authenticate each authorized reseller but
not the actual information passed in the bid request.
But you need to use ads.cert to delve into supply chain data, such as
domain, location, IP address, device, position on the page, impression type
and other variables that inform the value of the impression.
According to the
, ads.cert standardizes the use of cryptographically signed bid requests to
address multiple types of fraud that are predicated on manipulating these
types of data. While tools such as ads.txt validate parties to the
transaction, ads.cert empowers those parties to validate the key elements
of the transaction itself. Or, as the IAB put it, “Together, these
technologies are a powerful combination in fighting fraud to allow buyers
to check for authenticity and authorization of the sales channel.”
Why haven’t we made progress?
It’s been three years since the IAB put ads.cert on the industry radar.
Initially, it hoped that ads.cert adoption would occur in early 2019. But
here we are in Q3 of 2020 and ads.cert remains sidelined.
Sadly, the roadblock to ads.cert adoption seems to be inertia. Unlike the
SupplyChain object, ads.cert requires the adoption of OpenRTB 3.0, which is
not backward compatible. That means that as a technical matter we can’t
move piecemeal against fraud. Instead, our industry has to move in unison,
and more crucially, we need the biggest players in our industry to commit
to OpenRTB 3.0.
But if we can’t measure fraud, those industry giants continue to justify
the status quo because they can’t quantify the ROI in combating fraud. It’s
an unfortunate Catch-22.
Eventually, we’ll move beyond this flawed logic. We’ll adopt OpenRTB 3.0
and ads.cert not because doing so will meet ROI projections, but because
progress on new industry standards is as inevitable as it is slow. The
question is, why should we wait around for a good thing that we’re going to
do anyway? As it turns out, there’s no good answer, and the longer we wait,
the more we allow our industry to fall victim to fraud
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