The marketing industry's Media Ratings Council has for the first time certified a company in detecting "sophisticated" invalid traffic, part of an effort to bolster defenses against criminals that are believed to siphon billions of dollars out of the business each year through ad fraud.
White Ops, which emerged from "stealth mode" in 2013, received the accreditation under the MRC's new Invalid Traffic Detection Guidelines. The MRC is reviewing additional companies including ComScore, DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science, Moat, Adloox and Pixelate for the same certification.
The new guidelines reflect expanded expectations for the measures that companies take to identify and thwart so-called sophisticated invalid traffic, or SIVT. "General" invalid traffic is easily detected because it's already on lists of suspect data center IPs or bots, for example, that are shared within the industry. Battling "sophisticated invalid traffic" requires using constantly-updated advanced analytics and significant human intervention to catch previously undetected hijacked devices and tactics.
"This is an attempt by the industry to separate what's considered the low hanging fruit -- general invalid traffic -- versus the kind of invalid traffic that's being run masterfully by people who are playing back at the detection artists," said Michael Tiffany, co-founder and CEO of White Ops. "We assume anyone going for accreditation can detect some fraud. The open question is, can you survive adaption?"
Fraudsters typically take marketers' money through online exchanges to place legitimate ads on sites that they've populated with fake traffic. Sophisticated criminals can wind up with very deep pockets, all the better to fund new ad-fraud schemes.
"You can evaluate viewability measurement and say, 'Yup, it works," Mr. Tiffany said. "Whereas with fraud detection, the open question is, 'This works, but is it also robust enough to work tomorrow in the face of adversaries who are at least as smart as us and who are running outrageously profitable crime schemes and can literally afford to invest a lot of money, time and energy into reverse-engineering the protective measures put in place?"
The MRC's membership includes the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A's, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and many individual buyers and sellers of advertising.
Companies that receive its new accreditation will have to provide clients a SIVT report in addition to the report on general invalid traffic, or GIVT, that they previously provided.
"Those who rely on digital measurements would be well advised to ensure their counts are filtered for both GIVT and SIVT, and recognize that it likely will require specialized expertise that a relatively small number of services have to provide a comprehensive SIVT solution for their measurements," said David Gunzerath, senior VP-associate director, MRC, in an email.
Ad fraud is expected to cost the industry $7.2 billion in 2016, up nearly $1 billion from the previous year, according to a report from the ANA that was conducted by White Ops.