Mobile advertising click fraud is 2.4 times worse in India than the global average says a recent study by marketing major Tune. Mobile app install fraud is also 1.7 times higher in India, according to the report.
The report says that India is one of the most active countries on the planet when it comes to installing mobile apps. And, of a sample of more than 100 million installs, 16.2% of them show unmistakable signs of fraud.
The problem of click fraud and install fraud is a growing one.
Tune analysed 24.3 billion clicks on 702 ad networks, which showed that 23.3% of ad networks have significant fraud levels of over 20%.
Why we need to be concerned?
Tune estimates that mobile ad fraud is currently costing marketers in India around $350 million.
“Mobile Ad Frauds are here to stay. These are smart underworld communities and believe in making a quick buck. This is their career path. They obviously move faster than marketers at their job. While several tools with state of art algos exist, frauds have been institutionalised by various stake holders making it tougher to crack—hitting genuine publishers the most. It’s a catch 22—the advertisers want performance, the fraudsters deliver it just like the genuine Pubs—marketers start working with frauds in a quest to meet their KPIs,” says Herat Maniar, CMO, Sachar Gaming.
Mobile ad fraud comes into play when the traffic to an ad is invalid or fake. These can be in the form of faked impressions, click spam or even faked installs.
As explained by Adjust, a mobile measurement company, fraudulent publishers seeking to benefit from false impressions may stuff ads into a single pixel, or deliberately align an ad out of view to generate views or impressions that actually never took place.
Then there is mobile app install fraud. A number of app publishers use the number of installs as a measure of its reach. But there are different types of fraud involved with that as well.
There is ‘click fraud’ where those scamming, fire off fake clicks from non-existent or invisible mobile ads, thus increasing their chances of being seen by marketers as the source of an install.
Meaning, when a smartphone owner downloads and installs a real app on a real smartphone, the scammer fraudulently takes credit for the install hence taking revenue for the traffic generated.
There are also instances where thousands of mobile devices operated by a software or people repeatedly install apps to claim advertising credit.
There is also bot fraud, in which scammers serve ads to bots or software agents and not real people, which may or may not click on the ads.
The problem here is that genuine marketers are spending money for fake marketing and the ones scamming are making profits out of this, when real traffic or conversion is absent.
"In a typical online fraud scheme, computers are infected with malicious software that directs machines called bots to visit a web page and then click on an ad or watch a video. Not just this, sometimes the legitimate organic traffic is spoofed to look like coming from an affiliate through cookie stuffing on browsers,” says Sachin Uppal, chief marketing officer of Play Games24x7 and Ultimate Games.
How can one avoid this fraud?
While there are those who purposely go for this type of marketing as a means to an end, there are several companies that hand out the job to an agency and get cheated.
According to the Tune report, marketers need to start paying more attention to sales, sign-ups and long term engagement with an app or service instead of clicks, views and installs.
Umesh Thota of the cyber security firm, Authbase says that app developers should be able to tell that there is something fishy when there is no conversion. If people are just downloading and deleting, that means there is some fraudulent activity going on.
“For starters, they must write in their contracts with agencies that there has to be some kind of conversion that has to be realised. Another way easy way of identifying this is when a whole bunch of downloads come from a single cluster or region. Google gives you a whole bunch of reports for your app of who’s downloading it and from where, etc,” says Umesh, whose award-winning startup is currently being incubated at Hyderabad-based T-Hub.
There are also packages available today that tell you if someone uninstalls your app, all you have to do is integrate those software development kits (SDKs) into your app and you’re very good to go, he adds.
There are also attribution products offered by companies like Tune that will tell companies what marketing is working and what isn’t. Companies too are slowly identifying this.
“Digital advertising has to be open and transparent, secure and audit-able with a balanced and efficient ecosystem. So, it's imperative to have a third party traffic auditing system. The only marketer who will not need a verification system is the one who has something to hide," Sachin says.
Programmatic advertising company, Vertoz says that it has built a technology that helps detect frauds.
“At Vertoz we are obliged to maintain a high-quality advertising environment for the sake of our advertisers as well as our publishers and web users worldwide. We use advanced fraud detection methods and have joined hands with Geoedge, a premier provider of Ad security and verification solutions for the online and mobile advertising ecosystem to make sure that all interaction with Vertoz ads is legitimate,” says Ahish Shah, Founder and CEO, Vertoz.
And, like the Tune report states, this is critical to do. Because with the bad traffic, there might be some very good traffic coming your way as well. So killing the bad while keeping the good is imperative.
This article has been produced with inputs from T-Hub as a part of a partner program.