Fighting Fraud In A Mobile-First World: How Marketers Can Stay Ahead Of In-App IVT


This article is sponsored by MoPub.

As time spent in mobile apps continues to soar, in-app ad spend has followed. In fact, in-app’s share of mobile video advertising alone is projected to grow to 84% by 2023, according to a report by Forrester.

Yet despite steady growth in this category over the last few years, the true return on investment for in-app advertising remains murky. Why? Mobile invalid traffic – particularly ad fraud – makes it hard to appropriately gauge how many real individuals are actually reached by the advertisements that marketers are paying for.

Invalid traffic (IVT) can take many forms – from benign technical issues and legitimate crawlers all the way to fraudulent bots designed to imitate human visitors. Many indicators already point to high levels of IVT in mobile apps. In Pixalate’s Q2 2018 Programmatic Quality Report, researchers found mobile in-app programmatic advertising had IVT rates between 22% and 29%, compared to 15% for desktop web ads.

As a result, it’s no surprise that marketers are concerned that ad fraud may significantly weaken the performance of their in-app spending, while app publishers are worried that in-app ad fraud jeopardizes their potential ad monetization revenue growth.

“Marketers deserve to trust that their mobile budgets will buy legitimate traffic, especially as the channel continues to drive significant ad spend,” said Samantha Lee, Vice President of Media Operations at MediaMath.

“Protecting buyers from invalid traffic prevents spend from being wasted on individuals and organizations that perpetuate nefarious activities, and it allows marketers to achieve more accurate outcomes.”

Below are three ways the mobile advertising industry can help protect ad-spend and ad viewability by removing fraudulent traffic.

1. Vet partners throughout the advertising chain to develop a trustworthy ecosystem. Verifying that publishers have valid supply starts with understanding fraud warning signs.

“It’s all about building trust, and that requires that the mobile advertising ecosystem is built with trustworthy and high quality publishers at its foundation,” said Boris Logvinskiy, MoPub’s Head of Product.

Monitoring viewability rates, app store rankings, user downloads, user experience and ad implementation and capabilities can all help predict trustworthiness. For example, MoPub leverages Twitter’s global Policy team, which uses a careful mix of these indicators to evaluate publishers and decide whether a particular publisher should be added to MoPub’s programmatic exchange.

Creating consequences for noncompliance is also critical. Strict IVT policies help penalize careless publishers and encourage accountability from top to bottom.

2. Remove, track, and monitor invalid traffic throughout the entire cycle. While careful vetting of industry partners helps reduce the likelihood that IVT will appear, the only surefire way to minimize IVT exposure is to consistently scan supply for any threats.

“Fully eradicating fraud is unrealistic,” said Tatyana Bogatyreva, Director of User Acquisition at Gram Games. “Our approach is to minimize exposure by choosing the most transparent and reliable partners, while fortifying the tech stack to identify the advanced tactics plaguing UA performance campaigns.

“But as our mobile programmatic footprint grows, spotting inefficiencies in the intricate ad funnel layers poses a challenge. Insufficient protection against IVT can push advertisers to ‘safer’ environments like private marketplace or guaranteed deals, limiting the growth potential from the open exchange.”

Fraud-savvy exchanges help publishers and advertisers tackle these concerns by tracking unusual traffic – often clicks or impressions generated by bots that switch pages every 10 seconds – with a data-driven approach. This includes both pre- and post-bid solutions that focus on illegitimate traffic based on IP address, ad tag hijacking, or even spoofed source information by device ID or bundle ID. By reviewing suspicious behavior, the mobile ad industry can develop a more comprehensive understanding of IVT patterns to inform stronger enforcement tools.

3. Don’t tackle IVT alone: partner with specialists in mobile in-app IVT detection. Traffic quality management requires significant attention and resources. Many publishers and ad exchanges don’t have the tools to keep up with ever-adapting fraudsters.

Partnering with experienced vendors, particularly those with Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation, increases the likelihood that invalid traffic is identified and removed across the exchange process. Fraud management vendors are uniquely equipped with the reach, focus, and sophisticated set of tools to help prevent IVT from eroding ad performance and marketer confidence.

Coupled with a renewed collective emphasis on increasing transparency across the mobile app ecosystem, DSPs, SSPs and publishers can more easily demonstrate their clean traffic practices and reassure marketers that in-app advertising budgets are reaching their intended audience. The result? A profitable, results-oriented market that benefits everyone.

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