An Inside Look at Sophisticated Invalid Traffic with Comscore’s Timur Yarnall
Q: What is your role at Comscore?
Timur: I run our Advertising Platforms and Corporate Development teams, which include Comscore’s campaign measurement and effectiveness solutions. Corporate Development includes M&A review and strategic partnerships. I enjoy the role immensely as it’s a wonderful blend of Product and Strategy.
Q: As the co-founder of MdotLabs, a fraud detection company Comscore acquired in 2014, you’ve been involved in the war against fraud for several years. What are the most significant changes you’ve seen recently regarding fraud and invalid traffic (IVT)?
Timur: There have been significant, positive changes in the industry-wide fight against fraud and IVT. Compared to 2013, when we had difficulty getting anyone to pay attention to the issue, the industry is aligned and fighting IVT via multiple, coordinated organizations including the MRC and IABs. Notably, the MRC’s recognition of the distinction between “General” and “Sophisticated” IVT (SIVT) underscores that the industry is working hard to understand the nuances of this issue.
Q: Why is Sophisticated IVT (SIVT) detection becoming so important in the industry?
Timur: SIVT detection is so important due to how complex and fast-changing fraud techniques have become. The baseline General IVT detection and filtration of what you might call ‘standard’ botnet activity and conspicuous traffic patterns still leaves media partners vulnerable to more sophisticated techniques of malpractice, requiring more advanced methods of detection.
We are pleased to share that Comscore recently received MRC accreditation for SIVT detection capabilities. Further, Comscore is the first measurement provider to gain accreditation for SIVT practices for both content and campaign measurement of desktop and mobile web.
Q: Over the last year, IVT has become an increasingly hot topic for Europe’s digital industry. What key factors do media buyers need to watch out for to not fall victims to IVT? What about media sellers?
Timur: Some of it can be boiled down to common sense and doing one’s homework – who are you doing business with, have you met face-to-face, do you screen for results that are too good to be true? Is your media partner offering results in line with their track record or have they ‘come out of nowhere’? However, both buyers and sellers need to utilize a variety of internal solutions and external partners to fight IVT based on the recognition that the “bad guys” will never stop evolving their methods and IVT has different flavors depending on which media type your campaign is running.
Comscore is working actively in IAB Europe’s Brand Advertising Committee and its Quality Taskforce which is looking at viewability, brand safety and soon fraud/IVT. The group’s work is reviewing the various industry initiatives in the U.S. and Europe on these topics with the ambition to leverage cross-border cooperation and harmonization of standards and audits as much as possible. At Comscore we are certainly keen to help the markets across Europe accelerate their education and approaches to mitigating the threat that fraudulent and invalid traffic can cause to our industry.
Q: What technology and approach does Comscore use to detect and remove IVT?
Timur: Comscore leverages both the cybersecurity expertise gained via its MdotLabs acquisition and its massive data footprint to detect and remove IVT. Comscore uses multiple methods, broadly described as anomaly detection, paired with machine learning to catch evolving threats. Given that Comscore has the unique ability to compare results of specific campaigns to data captured through our audience panel, publisher tagging partners, and brand safety crawling engine, we have an unparalleled dataset against which to match normative vs. suspicious activity.
Q: We’ve seen that IVT often is more prevalent in programmatic trading than direct. What trends has Comscore seen on this front?
Timur: That is still the case, programmatic buys are often more susceptible to IVT than direct buys – however in some cases we are seeing signs of improvement as our programmatic partners have used internal tools and external solutions to attack IVT.
Q: Programmatic continues to see immense growth in Europe with the latest IAB report showing programmatic spend up 70.3% year-on-year. What new ways are you seeing clients tap into targeting in today’s data-heavy and automated environment?
Timur: Clients are leveraging their 1st party data in conjunction with trusted 3rd party data more effectively and confidently than ever, across all platforms, so we expect that growth to continue. The ability to take trusted validation metrics and deliver campaign messages to a broad audience modeled on known customer profiles is delivering better KPIs than ever before.
Q: As we near the end of this year, what trends do you see shaping the industry in 2017?
Timur: The key challenge for clients now is no longer data onboarding, or running campaigns, but appears to be determining which 3rd party or DMP data is most useful vs. which is not adding any value to their campaigns. There will be a separation of the “wheat from the chaff” in terms of the many audience segment providers in the market. Additionally, we will continue to see cross-platform marketing gain ground as silos between TV and digital continue to blur for consumers and marketers alike.