Digiday: Domain spoofing remains an unsolved issue in programmatic advertising

Ask marketers about a persistent, unresolved issue in programmatic advertising, and many will agree: domain spoofing.

Domain spoofing, where unscrupulous publishers, ad networks or exchanges obscure the nature of their traffic to resemble legitimate websites, is not a new problem in the industry. But it has gained much attention lately because marketers are increasingly focused on fraud and brand safety.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab, for instance, started an initiative called ads.txt last month to show media buyers eligible distributors of a publisher’s inventory. For example, if a demand-side platform or an agency trade desk wants to buy inventory from on an open exchange, it will be able to see if that exchange is an authorized reseller of the publisher by visiting

Spoofed domains are not just fake website addresses, they are also banner farms that contain bad content, according to programmatic analytics firm Metamarkets. For instance, the company has a brand client whose ads should have been served to a legitimate entertainment website with very high monthly traffic. But the brand’s ads ended up instead on an unknown site called

Domain spoofing is not only caused by ad networks, exchanges or fraudulent websites. At least 10 out of the top 100 publishers ranked by comScore are also feeding this practice by buying fraudulent traffic from ad networks, according to Chris Wexler, svp and executive director of media and analytics for agency Cramer-Krasselt. “Those fraudsters get a few cents more per thousand [impressions] today, but in the long run, it depresses revenue for legitimate publishers and trust in the market for advertisers,” said Wexler.

The flow of an ad impression is typically like this: A publisher creates a bid request, passes it to several supply-side platforms or ad exchanges that further send the bid request to multiple DSPs. Once the bid is won, the publisher ad server will call the demand side ad server and the ad is rendered, according to Mike Caprio, chief growth officer for ad tech firm Sizmek. (Continued…)


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