Home Data-Driven Thinking A Pragmatic Approach To Banishing MFA From The Supply Chain

A Pragmatic Approach To Banishing MFA From The Supply Chain

Andrew Casale, President and CEO, Index Exchange

The open web stands as a testament to freedom of communication, innovation and the collective pursuit of knowledge. However, lurking within our dynamic ecosystem is a growing threat: the proliferation of made-for-advertising (MFA) publishers. 

These entities are simply not publishers. They’re better described as master traffic arbitragers that exploit the system for profit without contributing genuine value.

A decade ago, the ecosystem grappled with a similar scourge: fraudulent publishers flooding the market with bogus sites and traffic. Back then, we lacked the robust standards that we have today. 

A more youthful Andrew Casale penned an AdExchanger byline 10 years ago pleading for a standard that would enable all players to “follow the money” at scale. And the industry created one. Sellers.json provided a framework to transparently track the payees behind ad impressions. 

This standard is a weapon we should also wield against MFA sites.

Forget MFA – focus on legitimate publishers

Today’s publishers navigate a minefield of challenges. From the dominance of walled gardens to algorithmic traffic shifts from Google and Meta, the struggle for visibility and ad revenue grows ever more daunting.

Allowing MFA publishers, with scraped, low-quality and AI-generated content and traffic arbitrage tactics to share the same transactional space as esteemed publications is not just flawed logic; it’s indefensible. To lump them together is a disservice to the principles of quality and integrity.

To my peers and competitors on the sell side of programmatic: the time for action is now.

By allowing traffic arbitragers to masquerade as legitimate publishers, you jeopardize our entire ecosystem. Consider the growing frustration of marketers, who are burdened with purging the supply of these impostors. 

Imagine consistently buying fruit from a market, only to discover each apple you select is rotten. Naturally, you’d seek better quality elsewhere. Similarly, if we don’t clean up our ecosystem, marketers will inevitably look for more reliable environments.


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We have to permanently eliminate MFA publishers – not by blocking domains that change like the wind, but by cutting off the root publisher node. (Check the site’s sellers.json to determine the root publisher.) This involves terminating contracts with these publishers and removing their seats from the exchange, preventing them from transacting, which will ultimately purge each entity from all sellers.json files.

This needs to end on the supply side. These MFA sites simply do not belong on exchanges. Short-term revenue excuses are no reason to harbor this activity. Ad spend will be redirected to legitimate, deserving publishers who need you to support their businesses.

To my partners on the buy side – consider a strategy shift from the endless cycle of blocking domains to using established standards like sellers.json to identify and engage with quality publishers. 

Maintaining lists of trusted publishers who are worthy of your media dollars is hard but effective. The alternative of constant domain Whac-A-Mole is simply not working. 

Going the extra mile 

In the pre-digital media days, it took years to establish the credibility to be worthy of a brand’s media consideration. Today, we can follow that same precedent by relying on existing standards.

Let’s go beyond merely cleaning up the marketplace. Let’s reinforce the foundations of a digital advertising ecosystem that values authenticity and penalizes deceit.

We can harness the tools we’ve developed to protect our investments and maintain the standards of quality journalism that our digital age demands.

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

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