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'The bad guys will never stop evolving their methods' Timur Yarnall

comScore's Timur Yarnall offers an inside look at how technological developments, and greater industry cooperation, are fighting the threat of fraud and Sophisticated Invalid Traffic.

'The bad guys will never stop evolving their methods' Timur Yarnall

Originally published by IAB Europe on 8th of November 2016

Timur, what is your role?
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. It’s a wonderful blend of Product and Strategy.

You’ve been involved in the war against fraud for several years. What are the most significant recent changes regarding fraud and invalid traffic (IVT)?
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 organisations including the Media Rating Council (MRC) and Internet Advertising Bureaus (IABs). Notably, the MRC’s recognition of the distinction between "General" and "Sophisticated" IVT underscores that the industry is working hard to understand the nuances of this issue.

Why is Sophisticated IVT (SIVT) detection becoming so important in the industry?
SIVT detection is so important because fraud techniques have become complex and fast-changing. General IVT detection, and filtration of ‘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, the first measurement provider to gain accreditation for SIVT practices for both content and campaign measurement of desktop and mobile web.

Over the last year, IVT has become an increasingly hot topic for Europe’s digital industry. What key factors should media buyers and sellers watch out for?
Some of it can be boiled down to common sense and doing one’s homework – who are you doing business with, have you met them face-to-face, and 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?  Both buyers and sellers need to use a variety of internal solutions and external partners to fight IVT, recognising that the ‘bad guys’ will never stop evolving their methods, and that IVT has different flavours depending on which media type your campaign is running.

comScore is working actively in IAB Europe’s Brand Advertising Committee and its Quality Taskforce, looking at viewability, brand safety and fraud/IVT. The group’s work is reviewing various US and European industry initiatives on these topics, with the ambition to leverage cross-border cooperation and standardisation as much as possible. At comScore we are keen to help the European markets accelerate their education and approaches to mitigating the threat of fraudulent and invalid traffic in our industry.

What technology and approach does comScore use to detect and remove IVT?
comScore leverages both the cybersecurity expertise gained by its MdotLabs acquisition, and its massive data footprint, to detect and remove IVT. comScore uses multiple methods, 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 our audience panel data, publisher tagging partners, and brand safety crawling engine, we have an unparalleled dataset against which to match normative vs. suspicious activity.  

We’ve seen that IVT is often more prevalent in programmatic trading than direct. What trends has comScore seen on this front?
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.  

Programmatic continues to see immense growth in Europe, with the latest IAB report showing programmatic spend up 70.3 per cent year-on-year. What new ways are clients using to target in today’s data-heavy and automated environment?
Clients are leveraging their first party data in conjunction with trusted third party data more effectively and confidently than ever, across all platforms. We expect that growth to continue. The ability to take trusted validation metrics and deliver campaign messages to a broad audience modelled on known customer profiles is delivering better KPIs than ever before.  

As we near the end of this year, what trends do you see shaping the industry in 2017?
The key challenge for clients now is no longer data onboarding, or running campaigns, but determining which third party or Data Management Platform data is most useful against which is not adding any value to campaigns. The wheat will be separated 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.

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