Publishers' Delay Is Holding Chase Back From Going All-In on Ads.txt

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Credit: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg

JPMorgan Chase turned heads last March when it slashed the number of sites where its ads appeared to 5,000 from some 400,000. The move, prompted by brand safety concerns, came after Chase found ad-tech systems placing its ads on websites like "Hillary 4 Prison."

Today, the company buys from roughly 7,000 websites that it's manually added to a so-called "whitelist," which largely consists of premium, well-known publications, Jake Davidow, head of media buying at JPMorgan Chase, tells Ad Age. (Its new buying process has reduced detected fraud by 49 percent and increased ad viewability 5 percent, he said at AdExchanger's Programmatic I/O conference.)

And yet Chase remains vulnerable to an ever-growing scam known as "domain spoofing," in which fraudsters pose as premium sites—perhaps the same sites that appear on Chase's whitelist.

A new industry-wide initiative dubbed "ads.txt" might stamp out domain spoofing, but large, well-known ad sellers including MSN, Politico, Yahoo, Ars Technica, Walmart, Best Buy and eBay have yet to adopt the solution, according to new data compiled by digital measurement company Pixalate.

Ebay will get there, says Ryan Moore, director of global corporate affairs and communications at the company. "This is a priority area for eBay and the team is actively working to implement Ads.txt files by early 2018," he said in an email.

A spokeswoman for Oath, the Verizon division that houses Yahoo, told Ad Age that it plans to adopt ads.txt across all Oath properties "in the near future." Overall, however, roughly 25 percent of the leading top 5,000 websites have adopted ads.txt, according to Pixalate data.

Ads.txt itself rolled out for the first time today, but was introduced back in May and could be adopted by publishers before now.

A decent portion of Chase's whitelist has yet to implement ads.txt, Davidow says, calling that somewhat surprising given how easy it is to do.

Chase is unlikely to go all-in on ads.txt until the majority of publishers on its whitelist adopt the initiative, he suggests.

"Let's just say it's the most likely route we're going to go," Davidow says in regards to only buying from publishers who've adopted ads.txt. "There are some publishers, big publishers, who have not fully adopted it yet. They're not quite there yet. We just want to make sure everything is synced up, with all the key players, until we feel comfortable going ahead."

Chase hasn't said what sites comprise its whitelist but Davidow's comments suggest they are the big ones you might guess.

"The large publishers that you would imagine are commanding the lion's share of our volume from the whitelist," he says. "It is not like we are seeing a ton of viewable impressions coming from a core group of niche sites, it's not like that at all."

"It is sitting with the big news, big, big contextually relevant sites that we would want to be on anyway," he adds.

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