Total Mobile Ad Fraud Prevention: Possible or Pipe Dream?

Posted on April 18, 2019
By Team InMobi

Every organization in the mobile advertising space aims to totally prevent fraud, but is complete mobile ad fraud prevention even possible? Will mobile advertising fraud always be around, or can potentially fraudulent schemes be eliminated for good?

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Fraud detection and prevention may never be 100 percent accurate all the time. But, the ecosystem can be made much safer and transparent than it is today.

Current State of Mobile Ad Fraud Detection and Prevention

According to mobile measurement provider Adjust, mobile advertising fraud almost doubled between 2017 and 2018. For some advertisers, around 80 percent of their ad budgets were gobbled up by fraud.

Adjust also found that around $5 billion was lost because of fraud between 2017 and 2018. This mostly aligns with numbers cited by eMarketer, pegging annual digital advertising fraud-related losses between $6.5 billion and $19 billion. A lot of mobile advertising budgets and in-app ad spend are being negatively impacted by fraudsters. Ad dollars lost from fraud is now in the billions.

Fraud in the mobile space has hit app marketers especially hard, severely impacting their user acquisition and app install campaigns. According to Adjust, 20% of all mobile ad fraud they spotted were fraudulent installs. In addition, 27% of all fraud was trying to disrupt install events through click injection.

To learn more about the most common types of mobile advertising fraud, be sure to check out our blog post on the 6 Common Types of Mobile Ad Fraud You Need to Know About.

Brand marketers are affected by fraud too. Issues like fraudulent traffic abound as well. Close to 37% of brand marketers will prioritize fighting fraud in 2019, according to Integral Ad Science.

Finding Better Fraud Prevention Tools and Techniques

Further complicating matters is the growing size and sophistication of mobile ad fraud. Invalid traffic and click spam remain pervasive, and fraudsters are also getting smarter and harder to root out.

The ad fraud scheme exposed by BuzzFeed in October 2018 is a great example of this in action. Here, fraudsters used artificial intelligence (AI) to develop app bot traffic that was virtually indistinguishable from legitimate, human traffic.

So what can players in the programmatic supply chain do to at least begin to curtail fraud and improve trust? There are a few key steps to take to move the ecosystem in the right direction:

  • Brands and publishers should prioritize transparency. This ensures they can see precisely what’s happening at every step from point A to point B, which allows everyone to see where any potential issue came from.
  • Adopting attribution, measurement and tracking models that are harder to game, like multi-touch attribution over single-touch attribution, helps to remove many of the incentives fraudsters currently have to perpetrate fraud in the first place.
  • Implementing industry standards and best practices helps to prevent certain kinds of fraud from popping up. For example, app-ads.txt can largely eliminate domain and SDK spoofing.
  • AI does not just help fraudsters now, as legitimate players can use AI to predict where fraud will likely occur, so it can be prevented before it ever happens.
  • It’s important to take a zero-tolerance policy towards fraud. Potential partners that have a propensity toward fraud or generally have a lackadaisical attitude towards it should be sidelined.

“The biggest issue in mobile marketing today is trust. As more and more companies enter the fray, with varying levels of technology and frankly, legitimacy, it becomes increasingly difficult for buyers to ascertain what is real and what isn’t,” says Mike Brooks, Senior Vice President of Revenue at WeatherBug.

He added, “That said, as more and more advanced types of fraud are being uncovered and taught to even the most basic buyers, the advertisers in the mobile space are going to optimize their spends toward partners they can trust to not perpetrate these schemes. I think this is finally the year where advertisers start talking with their money, and moving it to people they trust and business models they understand.”