The Fight Against Invalid Traffic Is A Never-Ending Arms Race

U.S. advertisers lose millions on their advertising spend each day to fraudulent traffic. 

And the problem continues to grow, as the ways in which fraudulent or invalid traffic is generated become more sophisticated.

The fight against invalid traffic (IVT) — which inflates digital ad impressions through illegitimate non-human site traffic as well as through fraudulent human-generated traffic — is a never-ending arms race.  

Many third-party measurement firms serve the industry in helping to detect and filter out invalid traffic, but it is an ever-changing problem. We need to be vigilant and focused on the threat presented to the digital advertising ecosystem.

To that end, the Media Rating Council recently introduced its first planned update to the IVT Standards originally launched in 2015. 

This update was anticipated as part of the original design of the Standards.  At the time, the acknowledgement was that IVT methods would continue to grow in sophistication and therefore our standards would need to evolve to adapt to a changing environment. 



The IVT Standards provide the benchmark processes and disclosures against which digital measurement providers can have IVT-filtered measurement metrics accredited.  Additionally, the MRC can audit and accredit Sophisticated Invalid Traffic filtration procedures applied by vendors.  This approach serves to ensure that measurers have in place processes to continually detect and assess new invalid traffic scenarios as they emerge.  

The updated Standards include a number of important additions and revisions to our previous guidance and represent a staged evolution leveraging the learnings, experiences and environmental changes seen since the original standards were issued. 

These include:

  • Recognizing shifts in the online environmentthat have occurred in recent years, including the expansion of specific Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (SIVT) areas to more fully capture the threats that exist today, and addressing IVT in logged-in and subscription-based environments.
  • Adding requirements for areas that have more fully emergedsince 2015, such as rules for IVT specific to OTT environments, and for the use of Machine Learning vs. human intervention in IVT detection practices.
  • Identifying and addressing particularly challenging IVT-related issues, including introducing a new required reporting metric called a “decision rate” (the percentage of all impressions intended for measurement where sufficient information was obtained to make a valid or invalid decision); expanding the requirements for the treatment and disclosure of purchased and acquired traffic; and providing newly detailed IVT discrepancy resolution procedures. 
  • Incorporating additional requirements put into placeon a one-off basis since the issuance of the 2015 version on subjects ranging from rules for IVT sampling techniques to requirements related to up-front filtration and mobile-app specific traffic.

The fully updated standards can be viewed at

Invalid traffic erodes confidence in the digital ad marketplace.  These updated standards look to protect that confidence by identifying those practices that are the most current and effective for detection and filtration of IVT.

But standards are only effective when adopted. And that is why the most important tool in the arsenal  is a universal insistence from all parties on filtering for IVT and using the MRC-accredited sources for doing so.

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