Google and IAB attack fake advertising inventory by running secret tests

Google wants to put an end to fraudulent digital ads and has been running a series of tests with leading media companies. Together with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab and major publishers NBCU, CBS and The New York Times, the company is now focusing on tackling ad fraud known as “spoofing” as part of the ads.txt initiative.

The term describes the ways ad buyers can be tricked into paying for unavailable advertising space. As an example, a spoofer may purchase cheap ad space and then list it as quality traffic on sites such as NBCU.

Given the rise in programmatic ads, which make it difficult to verify if an advert really ran, spoofing has picked up with multiple premium publishers reporting that their ads were apparently for sale on some sites.

Originally launched by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab, the ads.txt initiative encourages publishers to declare authorised sellers of their digital inventory.

During initial testing, Google and partners would turn off their programmatic ad inventory for a few minutes to see which ad exchanges were still selling them, reports Business Insider. Despite the fact that no ads were available, they still found millions of ad spots said to be available across various ad exchanges.

Among them, Google also found incorrect listing across its own entities Google’s AdEX, AppNexus, Oath’s BrightRoll, and PubMatic.

According to Scott Spencer, Director of Sustainable Ads, Google:

“[Ads.txt] elegantly addresses the issue of counterfeit inventory, where advertiser’s spend does not reach the intended publisher. It provides a clear means for publishers to safely and transparently benefit from programmatic channels, without fear of inventory misuse—it is crucial to ensuring a thriving digital advertising ecosystem.”