This past March, 20 of the largest publishing platforms and ad exchanges met to discuss the future of digital advertising and how the proliferation of malvertising in the form of scams, coordinated phishing attacks and aggressive redirects has caused incalculable damage to the adtech industry. The main subject of the call was buyers.json, an industry initiative to develop rules for buy-side transparency in the digital advertising ecosystem.
Digital publishers are uniting to fight back against these bad actors. A petition at the microsite https://buyersdotjson.com/ permits the adtech industry to pledge support of buyers.json, a new standard in development at IAB Tech Lab, now available for public comment. The buyers.json file would increase buy-side transparency by providing sellers access to buyer identifiers, name, and buyer type (direct or intermediary). Thus, any attack in progress could be identified and expediently shut down across all DSPs, insulating the industry from unmitigated damage. Enterprises such as the Los Angeles Times, PubMatic, The Guardian, Meredith, Mail Online, and CaféMedia have registered their advocacy for industry adoption of buyers.json.
“Transparency, quality and efficiency in programmatic advertising are critical to delivering consumer value. PubMatic is glad to join this effort to promote Buyers.json, bring enhanced clarity to the industry, and protect publishers across the open internet. We also believe that this initiative will help legitimate buyers drive ROI by preventing malicious behaviors that could negatively impact their campaigns and the consumers with whom they are trying to engage online,” said Eric Bozinny, Senior Director, Marketplace Quality, PubMatic.
“Malvertisers are malicious and exceptionally clever cybercriminal enterprises,” said Louis-David Mangin, CEO of Confiant, one of the petition signers. “Malvertisers go to great lengths to create an appearance of legitimacy, complete with articles of incorporation, bank account numbers, executive LinkedIn profiles and more. Currently, these bad actors are indistinguishable from authentic advertisers until they inflict damage on a DSP, and then nimbly replicate the action across multiple DSPs. While sellers.json exists to protect brands from buying inventory from unscrupulous publishers, no such protection is in place on the buy side, placing publishers at constant and significant risk of third-party threats to their users, resultant lost revenue and substantial legal exposure.”
In 2019, Confiant research found one in every 150 digital ad impressions to be malicious or disruptive, impacting 20 percent of user sessions. In addition to accelerating the prevalence of ad blockers and reducing the reach of DSPs, malvertisers are responsible for misappropriation of celebrity endorsement images that entice users to make fraudulent purchases and expose sensitive data, escalating legal liability for DSPs and causing untold damage to the reputation of the digital advertising industry.
On the microsite, buyers.json (buyersdotjson.org), a white paper furnished by Confiant conveys the benefits of a united global adtech industry aligning to disable the digital organized crime ring that comprises malvertising. “The buyer transparency that the demand chain object brings will help publishers in a multitude of ways. Publishers would be able to better identify demand not only to reduce malvertising, but to improve ad quality, to reduce transaction failure, and to discover buyers who may be interested in more highly coupled partnerships. Publishers will have visibility into how buyers are making supply path decisions and potentially partner with them to choose a more optimal one. The utility of the demand chain object to the publisher community is hard to overstate.” Patrick McCann, SVP Research Cafe Media