The advertising industry continuously takes new measures and develops new technology to identify and eliminate illegitimate inventory. In the last two years, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab, along with their technical working groups and committees which include players from across the advertising ecosystem, has released a few notable standards for safeguarding digital video inventory.
A few of these standards include:
- Ads.txt, introduced in June of 2017, IAB’s Authorized Digital Sellers specification was released to assist media owners with a standardized means to publicly declare to buyers the companies they have authorized to sell their desktop and mobile web inventory on their behalf to prevent “bad actors” from profiting from counterfeit inventory.
- Apps-ads.txt, over a year later, in March of 2019, the IAB released an extension of the ads.txt standard, called Authorized Sellers for Apps, for mobile app and OTT inventory.
- Ads.cert, the latest specification, which hinges on the adoption of OpenRTB 3.0, increases transparency by exposing if any details from the original ad request were modified or tampered with at any point in the supply path. The specification aims to give buyers peace of mind that the ad opportunity is being correctly represented in the bid request.
- Sellers.json: A new specification currently in public comment, Sellers.json, aims to continue the broader efforts to eliminate bad actors within the industry. Simply put, Sellers.json is a mechanism to allow buyers to know what business entity is getting paid for any given impression.
- SupplyChain: Another new specification currently in public comment, SupplyChain, will allow buyers to see the full chain of custody for a given impression. In other words, the program aims to show every time an impression opportunity changes hands and who is within the chain.
These specifications apply to digital video inventory across the board — from desktop, to mobile web, mobile app, and connected TV inventory — to authorize inventory and essentially eliminate any bad actors and entities who are not adding value to the ecosystem. The end goal is buyers having confidence in their ad buys and media owners ensuring their inventory is not being counterfeited.
At SpotX, we have a full-time, in-house team dedicated to brand safety efforts to safeguard advertiser investments and protect media owners’ inventory from being devalued. In addition, we partner with best-in-class, MRC-certified companies, such as DoubleVerify, MOAT, Zvelo and Similarweb to provide third-party validation on inventory. SpotX is also one of the first companies to achieve platinum status with the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG). In fact, SpotX is one of the only companies to be independently validated within TAG which entails an independent auditing firm checking our work and validating the checks and balances we have in place to combat fraud, malware, piracy, and inventory transparency.
Even so, SpotX recommends the following best practices to buyers to protect their video investments:
- Optimize your supply chain: Only work with media owners and device manufacturers you know and trust.
- Be wary of suspicious activity: Question well-known apps and where your inventory if coming from if you are not buying direct. Also, high-volume apps that are not well-known, cannot be found in searches, and/or have low CPMs are red flags when it comes to connected TV inventory.
- Clicks should be few, if any, on connected TV inventory: Take extra precaution if reporting shows clicks. Unless you are specifically running supported interactive creatives, be wary if reporting includes clicks.
- Verify IP addresses and user agents: If possible, understand if the IP and UA is publisher-provided or if the data will be validated via header information. If a third-party provider is in place and can be leveraged in connected environments, buyers can also utilize their own third-party data to influence decisions.
- Conduct the sniff test: At SpotX, we’re strong believers in if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. We encourage all partners to take a similar approach, especially discounted inventory from sources that seem too good to be true.
- Demand transparency: Ask for information around who is getting paid for impressions and how those entities acquired inventory. Many times you’ll find out entities getting paid for impressions do not have any relationship with the inventory being sold.
At SpotX, we don’t accept fraud as a cost of doing business and, furthermore, work to provide advertisers with the ability to buy with confidence from the marketplace type of their choosing with access to a diverse set of inventory options that best suits their needs.
Specialist, Advanced Solutions Group at SpotX