Cape Town - As one of the largest news and information websites in South Africa,  Independent Online (IOL)  brings millions of readers quality news reporting on events in the country and across the world.

IOL is part of the Independent Media group, which has an established loyal readership due to its uncompromising  approach to delivering fresh, quality content with the aid of cutting edge journalism  from South Africa’s most talented news staff. 

People trust our brands. With diversity being our key  objective, we offer news and information suited for every South African.

Sitting at the heart of Independent’s digital sector is the Ad Operations team, who work their utmost  to ensure site visitors have the best non-intrusive experience as they browse through our  articles. 

The team is responsible for honing new technology within the digital sector and is  consistently adding to the innovative technology offered by the sales team to digital buyers and a gencies across the country and global spectrum.

As a publisher, or owner of a website that publishes content, it is imperative to disallow any intrusive  forms of advertising that will negatively impact user experience. 

With that in mind, IOL has  established a brand safety environment for advertisers to showcase their represented brands by  making use of technology to audit media buyers and content brought into the website.

Programmatic advertising is the most common topic among buyers and agencies, especially  in South Africa, as the country shifts their focus on media buying programmatically – which is just a  term used to describe the use of technology in an automated process of buying and selling online
media space, ad inventory or website property real estate. 

With programmatic  comes a number of concerns such as brand safety. It is important to us as a publisher to  display your brand in the appropriate places, while always thinking consumer first.

Another concern is authenticity. Having had first-hand experience at a well-established  programmatic media buy-side company, I have found that you do not always know where your ads are being  displayed, no matter how experienced you may be. 

Illegitimate  sellers or website owners spoof domains and arbitrage ad inventory – which means  that media buyers are wasting their money buying garbage ad inventory with little to no viewability which then yields little to no return on marketing investment [ROI].

On the bright side, the audit process is also an automated process and with all automation there  must be a set of existing rules that the automation is governed by. 

Among the first in Africa to take  the necessary steps required to better take control of the programmatic concerns mentioned above,  IOL has leaped at the opportunity to become a part of the IAB-SA’s Ads.txt project. The mission of  this project is simple, says the IAB: Increase transparency in the programmatic advertising ecosystem .

Authorised Digital Sellers, abbreviated to Ads, is a secure method to publicly declare the companies  that are authorised to sell a publisher’s ad real estate. 

Think of it as a VIP list that each publisher  must have where the list will contain the names of the companies that will be allowed to sell ad  inventory on behalf of the publisher. 

We have put  together a short list of unique authorised digital sellers, including IOL’s own digital selling platform  (DoubleClick for Publishers), which means buyers will now be able to easily identify IOL’s authorised  digital sellers, enabling brands to have more confidence they are buying authentic publisher
inventory as opposed to counterfeit inventory.

Since this is a publicly declared project, all it really is is having a text file attached to the root domain  of your website. To check if a website has publicly declared their sellers all you have to do is type the  following after any website URL: “/ads.txt” eg.  https://www.iol.co.za/ads.txt

Typing this extra bit of text after any ads.txt certified URL will produce a text document with a list of  names and code identifiers revealing the Authorized Digital Sellers for that particular publisher.

As a buyer, it would be in your best interest to focus on these publishers that are publicly declaring  who they are and who is allowed to sell their ad inventory, as you can then put your brand’s mind at  ease by confirming that the ROI from marketing spend is coming from reputable, safe web  environments.

As a brand, you would want your marketing spend to go to these type of publishers, having peace of  mind that your money is being well spent and not on counterfeit or fake ad inventory.

As a publisher, monetization will be at risk if not with the ads.txt project as buyers, agencies and  brands alike are looking for good ROI on their marketing spend and the probability of that happening  is higher than the probability of a good ROI while buying counterfeit inventory.

As a consumer, your user experience will not be jeopardised as the publisher would have chosen the  most reputable sellers and resellers for their web properties, ensuring you get the high-quality  experience you deserve as you consume content.

* Riaan Sunny is IOL's Ad Operations manager.