Attribution Is Nice, But Who’s Taking Responsibility For Validation?

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Maor Sadra, managing director and chief revenue officer at AppLift.

If attribution is the commodity, shouldn’t anti-attribution-fraud measures be baked into offerings rather than billed as an add-on product?

Credit card companies don’t provide solutions for tracking transactions – they validate transaction. That is what you pay for, and that is what the company has invested its resources in. The credit card company is liable for validating transactions. And if it charged you extra to protect you from fraud, you would probably close your account.

But who is responsible for validating transactions in mobile advertising? When an advertiser chooses to run a campaign using performance pricing and the app requires a third-party attribution solution to track the source of an install, should the media vendor, which relies on the same third party licensed by the advertiser, take responsibility? Or should the media vendor develop its own attribution mechanism and demand that the advertiser integrate another tracking software development kits (SDKs) within the app?

Only a few years back, most ad networks had attribution/tracking SDKs, but it became cumbersome for app developers to integrate multiple SDKs. Using multiple SDKs from various vendors made the app too heavy and caused bugs, code conflicts and other issues. The need for a “single SDK” for attribution led to the growth of third-party mobile measurement platforms, which integrate a single SDK with app developers and a server-side tracking mechanism with media vendors to track who deserves credit for generating new installs.

This flow requires app developers and media vendors to trust that the mobile measurement platform is doing a good job attributing installs generated by said media vendor. What happens when the mobile measurement platform doesn’t do a good job, such as misattributing installs to the wrong vendor? Or what if it is hacked and both the app developer – who is, in this case, the advertiser – and the media vendor are misled by reported conversions that never happened?

If the media vendor and the advertiser both rely 100% on a mobile measurement platform for billing purposes, shouldn’t that mobile measurement platform be liable for attribution? And shouldn’t that mobile measurement platform also be responsible for providing anti-fraud solutions as part of its core service?

Taking the liability is risky. It’s easier to say, “I’m only an analytics provider,” than to take responsibility for tracking and attribution. There is huge financial risk that comes with taking liability for the media costs associated with attribution. But as long as “analytics” customers are paying to include a paid service to detect or prevent attribution fraud, doesn’t it deem mobile measurement platforms financially liable for the attribution of performance marketing?

I say that answer is yes.

Follow AppLift (@AppLift) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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