Brand safety and ad fraud improvements using Ads.txt

Ads.txt was one of the key buzzwords in programmatic advertising last year. After slow adoption, take up accelerated during the second half of 2017 fuelled by support from Google and better understanding from publishers of the benefits to them. With scale, it enabled DSPs to start trading programmatically using Ads.txt only buys. The Ads.txt specification an IAB Tech Lab supported initiative.

What problem does Ads.txt solve?

Ads.txt stands for Authorised Digital Seller and it’s a simple way for publishers to publicly state the SSPs that are authorised to sell their ad inventory.

The problem Ads.txt solves is twofold: supply platforms offering access to publisher inventory that had not approved and domain spoofing: fake domains masquerading as publishers.

And Ads.txt is the solution; by providing transparency in the market place via public authorisation that an SSP is allowed to sell that publisher’s ad inventory.

What is the benefit to advertisers?

Ads.txt makes it harder for bad intermediaries to profit from unauthorised selling or domain spoofing because advertisers can now identify authorised digital sellers for a publisher, and bid only on legitimate impressions. In doing so, Ads.txt provides a layer of trust and confidence that advertiser’s are buying legitimate ad inventory. In doing so, Ads.txt can potentially open up more scale to advertisers who have brand safety concerns.

Ads.txt buys should increase the value of programmatic trading because of the benefits of brand safety and ad fraud; advertisers should see improved KPIs as a result.


What exactly is Ads.txt?

As the name suggests, Ads.txt is a file created by DSPs by crawling publisher websites. For every combination of publisher domain and SSP (for example,, Rubicon;, Teads;, SpotX), the crawler records whether the domain and SSP relationship is either “direct” or “reseller”. Where the publisher has not yet adopted ads.txt, it is flagged as “not verified”.

The file can be regularly updated by DSPs so that campaigns can access the most recent version of events.

Are there any limitations to campaign delivery?

Scale: While Ads.txt is gaining traction, there are still publishers that do not support it. For now, scale may limit some inventory options.

Ad fraud: Ads.txt alone does not solve the industry challenge of ad fraud. However, it does provide a solution whereby advertisers can be confident that their ads will appear on the sites they have selected.

Ad formats: Ads.txt does not specify every ad format that an authorized SSP is allowed to sell.

Using Ads.txt for campaigns

Smadex fully supports Ads.txt programmatic trading for mobile site buys. This can be easily enabled at line level at zero additional cost from Smadex.

Attribution models for mobile advertising

A well-built media plan involves the very difficult challenge of trying to balance the different advertising channels used in acquiring and retaining a customer, and attributing the right merit to each of those channels to achieve a sustainable and scalable customer strategy. Therein lies the challenge: knowing the real contribution made by each channel, the value from the advertising spends invested and what attribution models to use.

The promise of “measurability” of digital marketing has led many to believe that the problem could be greatly simplified. This is partly true. The incredible power to measure digital channels has made it possible to find better solutions to the media planning process. However, over-simplistic approaches (where numbers replace reasoning) may achieve the opposite result of what was intended.

A simplistic (and in our view, wrong) approach to solving this complex challenge, is to try different channels simultaneously, measure them all with the same last-click attribution model, and keep eliminating those with the worse last-click as measured by CPA results.

The benefit of this method is its extraordinary simplicity. The problem is that it may achieve the opposite of what we want.

Measuring the sales funnel with different attribution models

Going back to marketing basics (the AIDA [Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action] framework is probably a good common reference to use): acquiring a user always follows a sales-funnel approach where we prospect potential leads at the top of the funnel (Awareness), find those that are interested in our product (Interest), follow them through the decision process (Desire), and finally convert leads into buying customers (Action),at the bottom of our funnel.

Each of these steps in the sales funnel has different objectives, and hence, can’t be measured equally. The objective of the prospecting phase is to make people aware of a product (top of the funnel), so that eventually, the lead will become interested enough progress through the sales funnel and end up buying. We can’t compare the cost of acquiring a new user to the cost of acquiring a user that is familiar with a product already (bottom of the funnel) and is ready to purchase.

If we do make the mistake of comparing these costs equally, we will tend to believe that the tool or channel that was helping us convert a lead at the bottom of the sales funnel is always better that the tool that helped build awareness to a new lead at the top of the funnel.

The catch is that if we follow the simple strategy defined above, and end up only with bottom of the funnel channels and tools, we will get very good CPA metrics, but very low scale. Indeed, once everyone that knows our products (those leads at the bottom of the sales funnel) are acquired, there’s no one else to convert.

This is typical of poorly designed media plans. It’s easier to quickly eliminate those channels that help us drive product awareness and end up with bottom-of-the-funnel tools such as search and retargeting channels that have great CPAs. The problem arises when we try to get scale. It’s then that we start pouring money into these channels and when CPAs become worse

The real key to the very complex problem of designing the perfect media plan, is not only which channels to use, but also how to attribute merit to each channel to measure the effectiveness of each with respect to the distinct goal that should be attributed to each acquisition stage.

That’s where programmatic buying can play a significant role, smartly utilizing its data processing capabilities to efficiently achieve properly measured results at each stage of the funnel, in conjunction with other marketing channels.

Ideally, last-click attribution should only be used to measure effectiveness of bottom of the funnel channels (search, retargeting). View or algorithmic attribution should be used to attribute merit and measure effectiveness of top-middle funnel channels, like programmatic.

The idea is to be able to measure “awareness” in a way that allows marketers to choose the right platforms without compromising scale and efficiency of a campaign. This measurement is possible. We should look into measuring which of the leads that arrived to the bottom of the funnel were impacted by top of the funnel channels.

For example, If I impact one million people with my awareness campaign, I should make sure that the 5,000 people that end up converting were among that million impacted a priori.

Properly combining channels, with the right measurements and attribution logics, one can achieve the holy grail of a scalable and effective marketing strategy.

Pre-bid for brand safety and viewability

Smadex takes brand safety very seriously: this is reflected in our platform, by giving advertisers full transparency into bid-stream level data via real-time reporting and with our partnership with Integral Ad Science (IAS).

We are excited to announce our pre-bid solution using IAS for viewability, brand safety and fraud. Pre-bid is an industry best practice approach that’s now widely accepted. For example, it predicts viewability in real-time before spending on an ad placement. The technology for pre-bid is provided by independent third party vendors like IAS, that make sure an ad is seen or placed in a safe environment.

Benefits of pre-bid

An important point to note is that the benefits of pre-bid are maximised when combined with programmatic; real-time decisioning, transparency of placements, more viewable ads, increased campaign performance, efficiency and effectiveness and overall higher quality campaigns.

Give the current industry concerns about viewabilty, brand safety and fraud, pre-bid provides a level of guarantee about ad placements. Ad spaces are only bid on and served if the ad inventory meets the specific conditions set by the advertisers in the pre-bid filtering.

How does pre-bid work

Advertisers must specify their pre-bid requirements upfront: viewability thresholds up to 70%, brand safety exclusions, suspicious activity levels, contextual targeting and languages. Some of these filters can be combined together such as viewability plus brand safety.

Advertisers can play with the IAS pre-bid solution by clicking on the Audiences > Prebid audiences in the global navigation. Reports are generated and available via the Smadex IAS account and our operations team will be able to send advertisers regular reports on campaign activity.

One of the recognised downsides and trade-offs that advertisers need to make when considering using pre-bid is the impact on campaign delivery. This trade-off can be managed by changing thresholds such as viewability levels. Another point to note is that there are limitations with pre-bid and in-app advertising; the in-app versus mobile web pre-bid options are visible in the platform and advertisers.

Screenshot of the pre-bid interface in the Smadex platform



For more information about running your campaigns using pre-bid contact sales[at]smadex[dot]com.

Adding footfall attribution to measure impact of location campaigns

We are excited to announce that we are offering adsquare’s Insights solution to measure and attribute the impact of location-based campaigns to footfall. adsquare is a mobile-first data exchange, bringing together advertisers and data providers in a fair, secure and privacy-friendly.

For those of you new to this topic, the purpose of footfall attribution analysis is to determine that age-old question: Did my marketing spend work?

When advertisers spend on digital media, mobile metrics alone are not enough and they need to understand what has been successful at driving consumers into a store; this is where football attribution provides answers. (Note: Footfall is a retail marketing term used to describe the counting of people that enter a store.)

A footfall attribution study monitors each of the locations targeted during a campaign and analyses users that have been exposed to mobile ads against a control group that has not. The study generates insights and analysis in the following areas: audience analysis, temporal analysis, top stores and competitive analysis.

The important KPI generated is uplift: measuring the impact of mobile ad exposure at driving store visits, determined by comparing those exposed to the ad against those who were not (control group).

Once a location-based campaign has ended, Smadex will send data securely to adsquare for processing and analysis. The study will take a number of weeks to complete.

Smadex’s powerful geo-location tools

Our geo-location option can be found in the work space area, located on the global navigation tab. Advertisers build their geo-location lists and targeting once, save it, and then they can use this list as many times as needed in multiple lines.

To create geo-location targeting, advertisers can either upload a list of latitude longitude coordinates or addresses with zip code (we can support tens of thousands of locations), or individually plot the locations on a map by dropping a pin. Advertisers can create and manage any number of geo-location lists and edit a list at any time. Advertisers can choose the radius for each location within a line.

Smadex’s geo-targeting interface

Footfall Attribution

Footfall Attribution

For more information about running a location-based campaign to drive store visits contact sales[at]smadex[dot]com.

For more information about adsquare’s Location Attribution and Insights Study, contact sales[at]adsquare[dot]com.

Retargeting users based on real-time campaign behaviour

We’ve recently released a new retargeting feature in our self-service platform under the Audiences tab, called Activity Audiences. This new feature enables advertisers to generate new audience segments in real-time, based on campaign events such as banner views, clicks and video views. For advertisers, this is a very, very powerful feature.

Data capture

For the first time, advertisers will be able to create custom audience segments based on specific in campaign events that they are interested in and generate those new segments in real-time as the campaign is running. These new segments are stored in the Smadex DMP.

For example, with a video campaign, advertisers will be able to create a segment of users that have been exposed to the ad and watched the video for 30 seconds. This is extremely powerful and clearly underlines the value of digital and mobile.

Moreover, this data has enormous value and potential for smart advertisers: simply knowing what users have been exposed to your 30 second commercial means a) you know what consumers have been exposed to your brand, b) there is a general awareness about your offering and c) enables retargeting or lower level sales funnel activities.


Retargeting in this context is about reconnecting with users based on specific in-campaign events and applying different treatment strategies.

For example, let’s say that you are the planner at a global brand and you have just run a mobile video campaign via Smadex to extend your audience reach in the UK with hard to reach Generation Z. This segment spends most of their time with their mobile phones.

Having the capability to generate a gen_z_completed_video_view_30_second segment would enable you as the planner to tap into this audience again with follow on treatment strategies. One example could be a geo-location campaign using full screen ads for strong branding and messaging to drive in store visits after being exposed to the video ad.

Furthermore, advertisers can overlay third party data sets from Factual, Adsquare or Weve and provide an additional layer of filtering for improved campaign targeting.


The new Activity Audiences are private and only viewable and accessible by advertisers via their Smadex accounts. Advertisers will be able reuse these segments at later dates and across different campaigns.

Screen shot of the Activity Audiences feature:


Smadex platform

Smadex platform

For more information about using Activity audiences, contact sales[at]smadex[dot]com.

Awesome new features for crushing performance advertising

We’ve been working extra hard to release some truly ground breaking industry leading performance and direct response features this quarter. Here’s a summary of our top feature releases:

New product releases:

Major algorithm update – Performance has always been in our DNA since day one and we’ve been continuously improving our capabilities ever since. With our major algorithm update,  we’ve cracked PROGRAMMATIC + PERFORMANCE. Our completely redesigned logistic regression based performance algorithms are achieving CPA goals for all types of campaigns: installs, registrations, subscriptions, leads, etc. We can run tens of simultaneous models to make campaigns perform from day one. Results so far have been staggering and we have tripled spend for some clients in 2 months.

Bundle ID and domain name – We’ve made it easier to identify publishers using the common approach of bundle ID and domain versus the descriptions used by ad exchanges. You will find this under Workspace > Inventory.

Publisher scan – You can now set maximum budgets per publisher enabling you to test all inventories thereby making sure that you do not spend more than $x on each publisher. This is an awesome performance advertising feature that enables you to discover what KPIs publishers can deliver, from Cost-per-Install to viewability metrics.

Campaign activity segments – Within the Smadex DMP, you can now create custom campaign segments targeting/excluding users that performed (or not) specific events in campaigns. The segments are generated in real-time as campaigns are running which means that you could target users during a flight that for example where exposed to a 30 second video in another line/campaign.

New attribution reporting – We’ve added a new standard report that splits events by attribution type (view, click, cookie, fingerprint based view). With more campaigns looking at attribution models beyond last click and lack of third party platforms that now support this, we needed to give our advertisers an option for this on the platform.

Smadex adds WEVE Insights to power programmatic video buying

We are thrilled to announce that we have integrated WEVE Insights into the Smadex DMP via Axonix’s technology, making the  data available for advertisers to use to power programmatic video media buying.

WEVE Insights provides high accuracy probabilistic data sets modelling on WEVE’s unique opted-in verified first party user base. This gives advertisers highly accurate demographic targeting at scale, including gender and age, two of the most common parameters for any campaign brief. One of the biggest challenges for mobile advertising is access to accurate and credible demographic data; this issue is now addressed.

Combining WEVE’s accurate data sets with Smadex’s massive video scale across brand safe high-quality premium publishers found on over ten ad exchanges (including Google DoubleClick, Rubicon, Pubmatic, SpotX and Teads) gives advertisers a unique solution to precisely reaching audiences with video on mobile devices.

Smadex DMP showing WEVE InsightsWEVE

 For more information about using WEVE Insights to extend your campaigns to mobile video contact

Smadex integrates IAS for brand safety and viewability

The message is clear given the vast amount of noise in the industry about the topic; marketers now expect ad tech players to work with independent third party reporting platforms. This goes beyond counting impressions and clicks, it now stretches into ad quality for all ad formats and brand safety. We are pleased to announce our partnership with Integral Ad Science (IAS) for post-bid and pre-bid solutions that address viewability and brand safety.

We receive regular daily reports on the previous day’s performance for the post-bid solution; we take an IAS pixel from the agency and add this to the ad tag. For video, the ad tag must be VPAID compliant and can only run on mobile sites and ad exchanges that support VPAID. Smadex use the daily reports to optimise the campaigns towards viewability, brand safety and other metrics.

For the pre-bid solution, we only bid on impressions that meet the pre-defined brand safety thresholds and pre-bid targeting for viewability. In addition, we utilise IAS’ technology to block suspicious activity and fraudulent impressions. The pre-bid solution will use Smadex’s IAS account to give us granular insights for optimisation purposes.

This provides advertisers with a level of trust; that ads can be verified as viewable, landing on brand safe media that is fraud free. Furthermore, working with an independent third party platform like IAS will allow advertisers to compare all their ad tech providers like-for-like against each other and industry benchmarks. It’s these common metrics that now enable advertisers to set thresholds for all ad tech providers. This helps to provide transparency and create a level playing field around which numbers are being measured and more importantly, how these numbers are being calculated.

Integral dashboard

Integral dashboard

For more information about using IAS and Smadex

Ultra-fast bid-stream level reporting to optimize programmatic campaigns

We’re excited to announce another major and massive product milestone; ultra-fast bid-stream level reporting that gives advertisers a powerful tool to better manage (optimize, control, full transparency) programmatic campaigns.

This is a game changer; a significant advancement on standard reporting found in most demand-side platforms and gives advertisers access to detailed and granular RTB data. In other words, we are giving advertisers complete transparency into the bid stream data.

It’s still hard to accept that some DSPs today continue to send programmatic campaign activity in spreadsheets. This gives advertisers zero insights into what’s going on with their programmatic activity and no option to drill down for further analysis.

Our new multi-dimensional user interface makes it easy for advertisers to build and run as many custom reports on the fly in order to answer campaign queries, and arrive at the most actionable insights for optimization of programmatic activity.

Advertisers will be able to choose from a long list of dimensions relating to bid stream data (country, device, exchange, publisher, ad size city etc), drag them into play in the Filter or Split boxes and aggregated results will be displayed as a table, graph or line. From hereon, advertisers will be able to refine the data analysis by setting filters and adding more dimensions.

Screenshot showing the new multi-dimensional reporting interfacemulti-dimensional reporting

The new multi-dimensional reporting is live and you will find under the Reporting tab. We will continue to maintain and improve our standard reports that give advertisers quick access to the main KPIs for a campaign.