MRC Releases Invalid Traffic Update, Includes Property-Level Reporting

Following years or analysis and months of vetting, the Media Rating Council has released an update of the invalid traffic (IVT) guidance for third-party measurement firms used by advertisers to avoid buying fraudulent ad inventory.

The update, which began when the MRC began considering the impact of various browser and publisher privacy compliance updates a few years ago, expanded into other areas including new variants of domain spoofing, as well as property-level reporting due to the explosion of new questionable forms of publishing, especially so-called made-for-advertising (MFA) sites.

The full update can be reviewed here, but the new guidance already is raising questions about the need for further updates to deal with the rapidly blurring lines of digital publishing, including AI-generated sites that may not technically trigger the MRC’s objective IVT criteria, but may eventually require some form of qualitative ones.



“What we’re saying is ‘Report the IVT to allow the buyers to look at that, but as far as the qualitative aspects, we’re not taking a position on that yet,” explains MRC Senior Vice President-Digital Research & Standards Ron Pinelli. “Maybe in the future, there might be some brand safety and suitability updates that focus on that, but there needs to more definition and discussion.”

The most significant part of the new update is that the MRC is asking IVT detection and reporting providers to report invalid traffic not just on an impression level, but on a property level, as well.

“So if a buyer wants to completely avoid those sites that pass a certain threshold, they can,” explains Pinelli, adding that the MRC constantly comes across new, ingenious forms of IVT through its ongoing audits of third-party detection providers and publishers, and that the guidance needs to be an ongoing process.

For example, what began as a consumer data privacy-related update several years ago grew to include new forms of domain misrepresentation, as well as MFAs, as the MRC dug into new invalid traffic tactics.

By reporting the aggregate amount of IVT impressions data at a domain or property level, Pinelli says advertisers and media buyers will be better able to make their own qualitative decisions about whether to include or exclude them from their advertising buys.

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