The author is general manager, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand at AppsFlyer.
The world of online advertising, like every other domain in which massive sums of money are exchanged, is increasingly appealing to fraudsters. Mobile ad fraud has squandered huge sums of money in marketing budgets around the world. It is simple, fraud follows the money, and the gaming industry’s prolific growth has been a magnet for fraudsters both large and small.
So, what is mobile ad fraud?
Mobile ad fraud is when a fraudster in the mobile advertising domain uses various techniques to bypass the marketing funnels to gain funds.
Online fraud happens when attacks are done through various mobile devices such as a smartphone or a laptop or a tablet. Mobile ads are more susceptible to ad fraud and gaming apps are more than twice as likely to be targeted than an entertainment or F&B app. Install hijacking, click flooding, attribution hijacking, bots, fake installs, fake traffic, etc. are some of the forms of attacks.
Gaming apps are now displacing more conventional forms of entertainment and in-app advertisements are being used largely. Mobile gaming has a high level of engagement and fraudsters are attracted to it because consumers are exposed to advertising for longer periods.
But the most difficult challenge marketers face around digital ad fraud is that no one knows exactly how big a problem is. And the threat continues to grow.
Some of the mobile fraud indicators
Mobile ad fraud has its own set of clues and indicators that can be used to classify and eliminate operators. Inconsistencies in user behaviour, system sensors, and more can be discovered by using the data obtained by attribution providers. This helps further to identify activity patterns and highlights abnormal behaviour. A larger database helps identify fraudulent patterns better and faster.
Here are some of the indicators:
• Click to Install Time (CTIT) as the term suggests can be used to identify different cases of click-based fraud like the user’s initial ad interaction or the first time they open an app.
• New Device Rate (NDR) is the percentage of new devices that are downloading an app through an advertiser. It is important to monitor the NDR for its activity, as this rate is determined by new Device IDs measured. When a new user installs any app, or an existing user changes a device, it can be manipulated by device ID reset fraud tactics.
• Device sensors is a biometric behavior analysis that relies on hundreds of sensor indicators from the device battery level to its angle and more. These indicators help create a profile for each install - analyzing the device and user behavior per each install and their compatibility to normal trends measured with real users.
• Limit ad tracking helps users to control how much information advertisers get about their device's operation. This is used by fraudsters to cover their schemes on their smartphones, but this is only applicable to Google and iOS advertisers.
• Conversion rates are the percentage of ad impressions that turn into clicks, leading to installations, and installs into active users. Prior knowledge of an advertiser's anticipated conversion rates at any stage during the consumer experience will help deter fraud.
• Artificial Intelligence aids in the detection of instances that are impossible to track down by humans. A fraud detection solution combined with a massive mobile attribution database along with Machine Learning algorithms ensures efficient fraud detection.
Combating ad fraud
To effectively combat ad fraud, especially in gaming, marketers need to understand that fraudsters are intelligent and are always one step ahead of us. They are innovative, creative and constantly upgrading their toolkits.
Any form of ad fraud leads to a shrinking digital trust. Timely intervention is critical to prevent mobile ad fraud and puts the trust back in the digital community. Therefore, marketers need to be armed with an advanced and sophisticated mobile ad fraud solution and be cautious of every step of their consumer journey. This will ensure the identification and blocking of existing and new fraud methods and ensure that mobile campaigns drive business outcomes
Marketers should act soon
An online marketing campaign of any size requires a robust and stable infrastructure, as well as an adaptive approach for detecting and blocking existing and new fraud methods. Advertisers who rely on remarketing, face a significant threat from fraudulent hijacking. Any professional marketer's campaign plan should take this threat into account. More transparency, analytics, and accountability are needed to tackle mobile ad fraud with a 360-degree security approach and solid post-attribution are essential for detecting fraud at all levels. Daily campaign tracking, cost-per-acquisition (CPA), and enlisting the help of a trusted partner can all help together a marketer to identify and protect against the adverse effects of mobile ad fraud.
Fraud is ROI-driven, so the more steps marketers take, the higher are the chances to reduce fraudulent attacks.
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