The mobile economy is growing. It is estimated that 59.5% of Google’s net global ad revenues will stem from mobile Internet ads this year, up from about 45.8% in 2015. By 2018, this figure is expected to rise to near 75%.
And as maturity in mobile occurs, ad fraud too is creeping in. Today it is costing advertisers an estimated US$8.2 billion in wasted ad investments, said a recent study by Click Mob. And while this is by no means a small amount, the ripple effect leads to a diminishing trust in overall digital marketing.
“Even as new standards for viewability measurements have been introduced by the Media Rating Council (MRC), fraudulent advertisers have developed ways to impersonate viewability measurements and meet the newly established standards,” said the study.
According to the study today, the 5 countries most targeted by ad fraud on the Android platform are Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, United States and United Kingdom. ClicksMob’s Fraud Fighter detected that the 5 countries most targeted by ad fraud on iOs are Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Singapore and United States.
Of the countries most targeted by ad fraud, Android-based fraud in Japan accounted for 12% of the total detected fraudulent activity. Meanwhile, on iOS, fraudulent traffic attempts in Japan accounted for 11% out of the total detected fraudulent activity.
"Mobile app users in Japan are high value, and therefore are likely more targeted by fraudsters because the payout is high," said the study. There is also a consistent pattern across both device types with Japan, Singapore, and the United States as the top targets, it added.
However, there also exists a critical unique difference when it comes to device type susceptibility in various regions. On iOS, Saudi Arabia ranked second in attempted ad fraud cases, accounting for 6% of the detected fraudulent activity. On Android, Malaysia claimed second place, accounting for 8%.
The study added that:
iOS versus Android matters when it comes to ad fraud susceptibility.
According to the fraud attempts detected by ClicksMob’s Fraud Fighter, iOS was 50% percent more prone to fraudulent traffic than Android. Android accounted for 39% of the fraudulent traffic detected, with iOS susceptible to the other 61%. Payouts on iOS are higher than Android, and iOS’s higher susceptibility to ad fraud likely reflects the willingness of an advertiser to pay for a new iOS user.
Based on ad fraud tracking and detection by Fraud Fighter, ClicksMob found that:
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were the most targeted days for fraudulent advertising, with Fridays drawing 18% of total attempts.
Comparatively, Monday-Thursday claimed 12%-14% per day of total ad fraud attempts that occurred on a weekly basis. This is likely in large part due to a budget shift that occurs, where advertisers are typically spending more on weekends, therefore attracting more fraudulent traffic.
The data signifies that as you go off-duty, fraudsters are just beginning their working day. When examining ad fraud attempts on gaming vs non-gaming mobile apps, the gaming category claimed more than one third of all fraudulent activity attempts.
Of the total fraudulent traffic detected by ClicksMob and 5 most targeted verticals, gaming claimed 39% of the total fraud attempts, double that of the runner-up, LifeStyle. With higher payouts because the user lifetime value is longer, gaming apps are a much more attractive target for fraudsters.
Safe guarding against ad fraud
Mobile ad fraud is destructive to the entire ecosystem; including advertisers, publishers, performance platforms, ad networks, attribution, and more, not to mention the companies that rely on digital advertising to grow and sustain their businesses. And one thing is clear— if no action is taken, these numbers will continue to rise, undermining billions of dollars in valuable ad investments.
There are some key steps ClicksMob has outlined to fight against fraud:
- Be transparent
For too long the industry has swept the issue under the rug and treated it like a dirty secret. Yet this approach only contributes to the tarnishing of the industry’s reputation, and not towards a solution. Everyone working in the industry must be open and transparent about the problem as the first step to finding a solution.
- Use data
All companies dealing with mobile advertising have data, and, vast amounts of it. Ad fraud is a data problem, and in order to understand and tackle it, it is essential to look inwards at your own data. There are troves of insights that can be found when this data is analyzed, and this information is key in the fight against fraud.
- Build campaigns to beat fraud
Post install and advanced performance models such as CPA and CPE minimise fraud as they occur at a later stage (after the impression, click and install). In some cases, these models require the user to pay for something - e.g. confirm a hotel booking. By leveraging advanced performance based models, much of fraudulent ad traffic can be more easily identified and weeded out, legitimising highly valuable advertising data once again.
Ad fraud is not a problem facing just one company, it’s a problem facing everyone in the ecosystem. Fraud comes in many forms and the criminals behind ad fraud are constantly innovating and improving their fraudulent methods. By working together and participating in information sharing, anti-fraud coalitions, ad-fraud meetups and the like, we all stand a much higher chance of staying ahead of the fraudsters and developing effective anti-fraud solutions.
- Think like a fraudster
People committing ad fraud are cyber criminals, and in order to combat cyber criminals, you must think like one. These criminals are in pursuit of big money payouts, and they’ll innovate in anyway necessary to succeed. Getting inside the heads of these criminals will help you to anticipate potential fraudulent methods.