This serves as an introduction to Pixalate’s MRC thought leadership series specific to Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (“SIVT”) within mobile application (in-app) environments.
SIVT within in-app environments has many varied characteristics — both in structure and detection solutions — compared to web traffic (desktop and mobile web). It is important that entities operating in the mobile in-app digital advertising ecosystem take these differences into consideration when establishing their internal control framework and their SIVT detection/filtration processes.
On June 2, 2017, the Media Rating Council (“MRC”) issued interim guidance specific to SIVT within mobile in-app environments to establish a process for evaluating the different characteristics of SIVT as detected within mobile in-app environments. The guidance serves as a supplement to the MRC Invalid Traffic (“IVT”) Guidelines Addendum (the MRC IVT Guidelines) issued on October 15, 2015.
The additional guidance provided is specified to the following procedural areas (described in greater detail below):
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Business partner qualification is the process by which an entity works to verify the identity, stature, and legitimate intent of the respective entity (or individual) in which they are engaging with. This process is designed to protect the entity from the potential business and operational risks associated to doing business with a party of ill intent; most notably as it pertains to the digital advertising ecosystem, those attempting to perpetuate ad fraud.
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SIVT detection and filtration techniques, by design, incorporate various parameters, thresholds, and evaluation criteria in identifying invalid traffic. Pertaining to the parameters and heuristics considered with respect to SIVT techniques employed in mobile in-app environments, the MRC interim guidance states the following:
“Measurement vendors applying SIVT detection and filtration techniques must consider mobile applications discreetly in setting parameters or determining heuristics used should they represent a material portion of measured and filtered traffic.”
These additional considerations, as broken down in the executive summary above, are intended to address the major differences in the evaluation of mobile in-app traffic (on the basis of IVT/SIVT).
The MRC mobile in-app SIVT interim guidance also explicitly addresses measurement vendors’ responsibility to apply a similar level of discernment and rigor in evaluating General Invalid Traffic (“GIVT”) within mobile in-app environments. While many GIVT techniques are parameter- or list-based, such procedures are required to be evaluated and assessed by the service on the basis of the coverage on a discrete application level. The MRC interim guidance also encourages the development of incremental procedures to address any coverage gaps identified, especially in situations where mobile in-app constitutes a material portion of measured and filtered traffic.
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Per the MRC, “'Fraud' is not intended to represent fraud as defined in various laws, statutes and ordinances or as conventionally used in U.S. Court or other legal proceedings, but rather a custom definition strictly for advertising measurement purposes. Also per the MRC, “‘Invalid Traffic’ is defined generally as traffic that does not meet certain ad serving quality or completeness criteria, or otherwise does not represent legitimate ad traffic that should be included in measurement counts. Among the reasons why ad traffic may be deemed invalid is it is a result of non-human traffic (spiders, bots, etc.), or activity designed to produce fraudulent traffic.”