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A Conversation Starter on Fraud & Safety in Mobile

Posted Mar 20, 2018

A lot of noise has been made over fraud within the mobile ad ecosystem. As the mobile app landscape has continued to embrace an ad-supported business and revenue model, the specter of fraudulent activity has been raised repeatedly and often without a solution being reached or even recommended.

Whenever the term “mobile ad fraud” comes up, stock images on articles usually imply some shady warehouse with thousands of phones being tapped repeatedly over and over again to drain advertisers’ wallets.

Types of Mobile Ad Fraud
Broadly speaking, mobile ad fraud can be broken down into a few categories, but as with all things fraud, there are grey areas and overlap between some of the categories.

  • Click fraud: A fake click from genuine users. Think mis-taps and accidental clicks. Some lower quality ad providers sometimes include ads that are designed to trick users into clicking, as a way to inflate CPC revenue.
  • Install fraud: A fake click from a fake user. This could be real people tapping away in a warehouse, or virtualized devices.
  • Targeting or compliance fraud: A genuine click from a genuine user, but in the wrong region, demographic, or other incorrect targeting.
  • Viewabiltiy fraud: Reporting impressions or uniques when ads weren’t actually seen by human eyes because ads were off-screen, stacked, or otherwise not viewable.

It’s also worth noting that all of the above can be done by either humans or bots. The larger the target, the more sophisticated the fraud used against it.

The Cost of Mobile Ad Fraud
According to the Association of National Advertisers, mobile ad fraud will cost mobile advertisers, publishers, and ad networks $7.2 billion in fraudulent clicks and bot-generated traffic.

That’s a lot of fraud, and according to an analysis done by Tune last year, the blame for fraud doesn’t just fall onto advertisers or publishers inflating their cuts, but on ad networks who don’t vet their traffic. Thirty-four of 500+ ad networks surveyed had over 50% fraudulent traffic and eight had 100% fraud traffic.

Let that sink in for a moment.

There is good news though: Over 250 of the networks Tune works with have less than 5% fraud, so progress is certainly being made in the fight against ad fraud.

So what can publishers and advertisers do? The best way to minimize exposure is to work with ad networks that are making serious strides to minimize fraud throughout the network. Often, these steps are taken behind the scenes to avoid tipping off fraudsters.

The best first step is for publishers to ask ad network partners what they’re doing to minimize fraud on their network.

There’s much more that can be done, and much more to be considered when it comes to mobile ad fraud, though. Over the coming weeks, we’re going to take a frank and honest overview of mobile ad fraud, from the basics of fraud and its terms to considerations for both advertisers and publishers.

Join the Conversation
Got questions about ad fraud? Insights or observations of suspicious behavior you’ve noticed yourself? Tweet us at @AdColony. For the latest AdColony mobile news and updates, follow @AdColony on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect on Linkedin.

 

Jonathan

Jonathan

An avid electronic entertainment connoisseur and huge pop-culture nerd. Jonathan uses his Swiss Army Knife of skills as Communications & Marketing Manager for AdColony. Our tweets come from our hive mind, but his fingers usually do the typing.
Jonathan

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