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The Default Position

Posted Apr 17, 2018

Mobile fraud is one of the biggest issues facing the digital advertising industry today, including mobile ads. With so many different types of fraud continually evolving, it can be difficult to keep up. Advertisers and publishers should be aware, because mobile fraud could cost them more than they realize.

As the mobile performance ad industry has grown, we’ve watched our partners and competitors struggle with how to speak about fraud, as well as control it. The historical lack of industry standards around fraud has made it somewhat difficult to tackle, and there have been a number of reactionary changes to some policies regarding this issue. On the desktop and mobile web side, the ads.txt standard shows some promise at proving a simple standard to authenticate programmatic ads, but no such standard has emerged for mobile.

A Moving Target
According to AppsFlyer, mobile app marketers were exposed to 30% more fraud during the first quarter of 2018 due to rising CPI rates and the overall growth of the industry. That’s equivalent to $700-$800 million in fraud worldwide, just in Q1! With the digital ecosystem being at the forefront of innovation, it can’t be stressed enough that fraud protection needs to continually adjust and be just as innovative, especially in this sector.

Not only are fraudsters becoming a big issue, but they’re getting smarter at what they do and faster at responding with new tactics. New protections force them to pull back, but even then, they’re finding creative ways to return. Just like marketers optimize their advertising campaigns, fraudsters are learning new and compelling ways to optimize their fraudulent traffic.

Prevention is Better than Cure
Advertisers should be wary of “ads for cash apps” that split the ad revenue with users in some form or fashion. These types of apps lower results for advertisers and publishers across the board, and fill the gap between fraudulent publishers and low-quality users. It’s not a bad idea to monitor clicks and compare that data to what’s reported.

“Ads for cash apps” are different from the concept of user-initiated rewarded video ads, where users are rewarded with in-game items in exchange for their time viewing an ad. “Ads for cash apps” usually only have ads to click on. User-initiated rewarded video ads are just a short interlude to the app experience itself. This value exchange remains honest thanks to top-tier targeting that delivers ads relevant to users, and not just any old ad just for the publishers to make a quick buck, and for users to mindlessly tap away.

Publishers, on the other hand, should demand attribution and fraud partners share click sequence and traffic data, and verify it against their own internal data. Clicks might be added, or even inserted by fraudulent mediators or platforms, and it takes a careful combing through and analysis of this data to spot these types of fraud.

The bottom line is that fraud protection is something that needs to be considered constantly and taken care of sooner rather than later. Both advertisers and publishers should keep an eye on their traffic and keep themselves accountable for accurate reporting. The entire advertising ecosystem needs to work together to fight fraud and prevent it from growing in the future.

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