The study was conducted in partnership with 16 leading programmatic publishers, with help from demand side platforms (DSPs), which provided anonymous data for a single day – revealing the number of unique exchanges, unique publisher IDs, and number of impression callouts for 26 domains owned by the participating publishers.
The publishers reported using 12 exchanges with 28 accounts to sell display, and two exchanges with six accounts to sell video on average, but the DSPs found their inventory available across 22 exchanges and 129 accounts for display, and 26 exchanges across over 1,000 accounts for video, on average.
Video callouts were overstated by 57 times the available inventory, representing about 700m counterfeit callouts per day, according to Business Insider, one of the publishers participating in the study.
Publishers may not actually be directly deprived of millions of dollars as a result – although advertisers are certainly wasting their money – but the counterfeit inventory falsely inflates the amount of inventory a publisher has available, which in turn decreases the value of their impressions.
“I didn't want anybody to judge The Washington Post based off of performance that wasn't happening on our site,” said Jason Tollestrup, director of programmatic at the newsbrand, as he explained the reasons for taking part in the study.
“It's the industry problem we need to fix,” he added in remarks reported by Axios.
“Ads.txt is an elegant solution to such a pervasive problem in the advertising ecosystem,” Tollestrup continued. “As a simple text file, this is an easy solution for other publishers to implement, helping eliminate most all counterfeit inventory.”
Standing for Authorised Digital Sellers, the ads.txt tool – a pre-formatted index of authorized sellers that publishers can post to their domains – was developed by the IAB Tech Lab earlier this year to increase transparency in the inventory supply chain and make it more difficult to sell counterfeit inventory or resell inventory without a publisher's approval.
Sourced from Business Insider, IAB, Axios; additional content by WARC staff