Article

James Haslam
James Haslam 23 October 2019
Categories B2B, Mobile

Five Ways Mobile Ad Fraud Can Impact Your Mobile Marketing Campaigns

From impression laundering to click-spamming, mobile ad fraud can completely invalidate an otherwise successful digital advertising campaign. As well as potentially seeing money siphoned off to fraudsters, businesses may end up changing their entire advertising strategy based on inaccurate information caused by ad fraud. By generating fake clicks that don’t lead to conversions, brands might assume the ad isn’t working and pull a campaign, lose potential revenue or see costs per conversion become disproportionately high. There are tools to prevent ad fraud such as click validation software that can root out fraudulent clicks and give a clear picture of engagement. But first, it’s important to understand the different types of mobile ad fraud and the ways it can affect your business. Here are five types of fraud your mobile ad campaigns are up against – and their potential costs.

From impression laundering to click-spamming, mobile ad fraud can completely invalidate an otherwise successful digital advertising campaign.

As well as potentially seeing money siphoned off to fraudsters, businesses may end up changing their entire advertising strategy based on inaccurate information caused by ad fraud. By generating fake clicks that don’t lead to conversions, brands might assume the ad isn’t working and pull a campaign, lose potential revenue or see costs per conversion become disproportionately high. 

There are tools to prevent ad fraud such as click validation software that can root out fraudulent clicks and give a clear picture of engagement. 

But first, it’s important to understand the different types of mobile ad fraud and the ways it can affect your business. Here are five types of fraud your mobile ad campaigns are up against – and their potential costs. 

Fake clicks

Bots that appear to click on advertisements skew your results, as do click farms, which pay people to click on ads. This makes it impossible to see whether the ad has really had an impact. 

Applications for countering online advertising fraud on desktops aren’t necessarily applicable to mobile environments and so as the mobile market has grown, fraudsters have crept in. The issue is yet to be solved. In fact, in markets where mobile phone use and accompanying digital spend have grown rapidly, such as in South-East Asia, mobile ad fraud has soared. According to the latest media quality report of the region by US-based ad data measurement company Integral Ad Science, Singapore is the most vulnerable country in South-East Asia to fraud and it is also one of the most advanced markets.  

This suggests that mobile ad spending is particularly vulnerable to a barrage of click bots generating fake clicks, among other types of fraud.  

Poaching organic growth 

Another issue facing mobile marketers is when a fraudster effectively steals the organic download of an app, for example, and registers the download as a click for an ad instead. That means the business owner of the app does not know how much organic interest their app has achieved, and thinks that a certain source performs better than it does. 

App downloads that generate clicks for ads when they were, in fact, an organic download means marketing departments get the wrong info about ROI. This means other potential well-performing channels for user engagement are not pursued, because your organic growth isn’t being tracked.   

Impression laundering and ‘ad stacking’ 

Ad stacking is a form of mobile ad fraud that involves taking users who have clicked on an ad through a series of other ads that they don’t see but still register as “clicks.” Even if you don’t knowingly engage with a fraudulent publisher, one could claim that they did get engagement and require payment. 

This means unscrupulous ad clicks are laundered through legitimate impressions. Similarly, a fraudster could claim an ad has been provided when because of the other ads layered over the top it was only partly visible. 

Background ads  

It is generally thought that Android phones are more vulnerable to ad fraud than Apple devices – adding more fire to the Apple vs Android debate. That’s because Android is open-source software for different manufacturers to use and because Apple has a fairly strict approval system for getting an app published on the App Store.  

App spoofing 

This is “mobile cousin” of domain spoofing, a form of desktop browser ad fraud, according to Campaign magazine. 

But rather than creating an impression from a fake URL (pretending to be from a premium site for ads to feature on) the mobile version sends a fake bundled ID from a fraudulent app. It makes the ad impression register as one that has come from a premium app, when it fact, it has not.  

It works in the same way as domain spoofing – and means that the ad impression could actually be coming from a brand unsafe source but leads to brands and advertisers coughing up payment for a premium ad.  

What are the costs? 

The U.S.-based ad data measurement company Integral Ad Science confirms the high costs of ad fraud. Their media quality report from 2018 states that while estimates of the cost vary, each estimate is in the billions of dollars. 

Consequently, 36.8% of brand advertisers and 45.3% of agencies told them they planned to prioritize ad fraud mitigation.  

Integral Ad Science tracked the difference in performance between results that hadn’t been optimized for ad fraud, and those that had. They found that the benchmarks for conversion were far lower (10x lower) for mobile ad display that had been optimized for ad fraud, compared to those that hadn’t. 

Combatting mobile ad fraud is a bit like a game of cat and mouse — one that affects the work of app developers, brands and digital marketers alike who all want to see real ROI. But with the right tools for staying ahead, its influence can be minimized.

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