Mobile ad fraud most likely to happen in an app environment: Industry experts

Rajiv Darshi, General Manager (West) Mediacom, Suraj Nambiar, National Media Head, Tonic Worldwide, and Anand Chakravarthy, MD, India, Essence, share insights on challenges of mobile advertising

Mobile Ad Fraud

According to the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), an estimated 22 per cent of the mobile ad spends in India are subject to ad fraud. But which area is more threat-prone in terms of mobile ad fraud? According to Rajiv Darshi, General Manager (West) MediaCom, “Ad fraud is most likely to happen in an app environment, which has its set of limitations. When it comes to tracking ads most of the long tail players are not equipped to accept ad serving due to which tools capable of measuring ad fraud cannot be implemented.”

Ad fraud has been there for a very long time and there are precautionary steps publishers take to avoid this. “Today there are many options for marketers to avoid ad fraud. This is done through creating your own data ecosystem that combines first party and third party tools that will help target the relevant user with no waste of inventory to ad fraud”, said Suraj Nambiar, Managing Partner & National Media Head, Tonic Worldwide. 
Anand Chakravarthy, MD, India, Essence, estimated the fraud to be potentially higher in India at close to 30 per cent. “Fraud is a global issue and in India, we are certainly not getting prepared as brands to tackle this. Aside from ad fraud, there are also issues like viewability and brand safety that need to be considered. Ad frauds take centre stage, while viewability and brand safety are equally important issues for advertisers to consider”, he remarked. 

But why do these frauds take place? “They happen when agencies opt for bots and fake users, maximise the magnitude of a campaign and charge advertisers unjustified fees”, said Nambiar.

How do agencies tackle this issue? Darshi stated restricting media buys on platforms which accept third-party tags facilitate in implementing tools to help identify ad fraud. Working on stringent KPI’s with long tails which are business outcome linked can curb the issue.

Nambiar stated that there were a few ways agencies could deal with this. “Agencies need to keep a closer look at the data flow which will show irregularities. Deploy ad serving or programmatic tools capable of detecting and removing fraudulent traffic. They will need to go with trusted and verified publishers,” he said. 

The resolution of ad fraud does not solely rest with the agency alone. Multiple stakeholders need to take appropriate action to create a digital ecosystem that has predominantly quality impressions. Chakravarthy said all three participants of the digital ecosystem advertisers, publishers and platforms need to come together and took tangible actions towards it. 

He recommended following a very stringent process when activating campaigns. Essence has taken measures like Proprietary Fraud Detection Tool- EKG: Rigorous monitoring to control and implement fail-safe mechanisms to avoid campaign losses in terms of fraud impressions. They have also created blacklists and have implemented content filters so that traffic that is removed pre-bid is never bought, and traffic that is removed post-serve is not paid for. They have developed a Fraud Squad, a dedicated team of a specialist having a continuous watch on patterns, evolution and create tangible POVs of tackling it on the scale. This is key as the world of ad fraud is evolving rapidly and we need to keep pace with new fraud mechanisms and have actionable measures to tackle the same. 

There is a plethora of challenges agencies face while advertising on mobile. Darshi said that one of the challenges faced by advertisers in mobile advertising is the absence of a common currency that helps unify audiences across apps. 

According to Nambiar, the main challenge is that a lot of platforms do not allow third-party tracking. “We currently go by the numbers that they report. Hence there is no trust in the system”, he said. 

Chakravarthy said the challenge lies in brand safety, ad fraud and viewability, the 3 key areas where advertisers need to ensure that their partners are taking the appropriate steps to protect their brand, digital and mobile investments. “More often than not, the focus is on efficiency and not on buying quality and effective digital media inventory. The real challenge is for advertisers to recognize this as an area that requires a lot more attention and make the appropriate investments”, he said. 

Chakravarthy added that there will always be attempts to create fraud as is the nature of many ecosystems and ignoring it will not make it go away and will only continue to reduce ROI for advertisers. “Enough has been said and written about ad fraud and I think it’s time for brands to take appropriate action”, he concluded.

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