Weekly News Roundup: Ads.txt Catches On (To Some Agencies’ Chagrin), Transparency in the Header, More

Who’s This Asking to Get Into Your Ads.txt?

Over on Reddit, publishers are reporting they’re receiving loads of emails from senders identifying themselves as reps from some kind of agency or another, demanding their company be added to the publisher’s Ads.txt file or else they’ll stop buying that publisher’s inventory. By the sound of this Reddit thread, a lot of the time these messages are coming from companies the publisher’s ops team has never heard of. AdExchanger reported on this story as well. Fortunately, AdExchanger’s read is that not many pubs are biting at these messages. It sounds like some wishful thinking for these small-potatoes agencies and marketing companies—they’re asking to be added to the publisher’s Ads.txt even when they aren’t buying the publisher’s inventory yet, but might want to in the future. The twist is that there’s nothing in the Ads.txt initiative that prevents many of those agencies from buying inventory from many of these publishers. Ads.txt is just intended to prevent unauthorized reselling of the pub’s inventory. Publishers hold the high ground in this battle, for once. Good thing they’re choosing to talk to each other before ceding it.

… And More Publishers Are Getting On Board With Ads.txt

Ben Kneen of Ad Ops Insider updated his figures on Ads.txt adoption. In the first 100 days of Ads.txt, 13% of the 10,000 most popular ad-selling websites had implemented it. He posted that figure in mid-September. Since then, the number shot up to 44% of those same 10,000 sites. Kneen suggests this might be “a record for publisher embrace of any IAB standard.” He chalked up the uptick to the Sept. 21 announcement that Google DBM would stop buying from unauthorized supply paths by the end of October, endorsing the Ads.txt initiative. Digiday pointed out how Google’s been assertive with Ads.txt adoption: They’ve added a tab in DFP showing publishers which ad sellers have listed their domains, and they’ve helped publishers set up their own Ads.txt files.

No More Buy-Side Fees for Rubicon, Following Auction Experiments

Rubicon Project did away with buy-side fees earlier this week. AdExchanger reports the company has been reducing its take rates since 2016, and eliminating buy-side fees will continue to push down those rates. According to Rubicon CEO Michael Barrett, they need to get those rates down to 10-15% in order to be competitive. Sounds like they’ve been looking for ways to do that as painlessly as possible: While experimenting with its auction models last month, Rubicon found modified first-price auctions with no buyer fees brought about more revenue for publishers and increased win rates for buyers. And reportedly that worked out better for everyone involved than other auction models it had played with.

Rubicon will continue charging publisher fees, and platform access fees to buyers who are too small-stakes for Rubicon to profit from their spending. Barrett said publisher fees were more stable overall than buyer fees: “Boy, did we live a dynamic roller coaster with [buy-side fees] this year,” he commented. Meanwhile, overall spending coming through the Rubicon platform has been in decline versus last year.

Does Header Cause Lack of Transparency, or Expose It?

My colleague Gavin Dunaway went to Ad:Tech NY this week, where a casual comment from Scott Spencer, Director, Product Management at Google, sent him riffing. Spencer said header tags have caused transparency issues in the industry. Might as well roll up Gavin’s response on Twitter into one package: “Header tags have caused transparency issues? Uh, they were there before. A lot of transparency issues can be attributed to the closed nature of DFP. The header leveled the playing field, allowing pubs to get all their inventory accurately valued. Domain spoofing and arbitrage existed long before rise of the header; header may have exposed their profligacy. But the other issue is blind cookie chasing at the lowest price possible. People keep saying that if it sounds too good to be true. It probably is… but that message has yet to resonate with buyers (particularly when they have spend they need to ditch).”

Safari Cookie-Blocking Fallout Hits Exchanges

A couple weeks back, we mentioned the toll Apple’s new-ish cookie policy for Safari was taking on programmatic-heavy publishers. Now AdExchanger is reporting its effect on the exchanges: Their headline on that subject read, “Apple’s Safari Tracking Changes Costs Criteo $1M In Q3, And Could Cost A Minimum Of $20M In Q4.” That says plenty, as is. For the sake of context, Criteo was projecting $260-$263 million in revenue for Q4 2017. But the company is not taking this lying down: They’ve developed a work-around that hinges on a cookie-less identifier that works across different sites and servers. That method is still compliant with Apple’s cookie policy.