Taking Ad Fraud Seriously: What Growth Marketers Should Look Out for in 2020

    By April Tayson - Jan 6, 2020
    Taking Ad Fraud Seriously: What Growth Marketers Should Look Out for in 2020

    As the new year kicks off, industry experts everywhere are looking towards the next big marketing trends that will shape 2020. What’s clear is that it will be another year of growth for Southeast Asia’s digital economy, with much of it driven by mobile.

    Google forecasts that Southeast Asia’s digital economy will triple in size, reaching
    $240 billion over the next seven years. And when it comes to embracing the mobile
    economy, Southeast Asians are outpacing the Chinese — with research showing that
    a higher percentage of Indonesians, Thai and Singaporeans use smartphones to do their
    banking, shop or hail rides.

    While 2020 will undeniably be a year of growth, that growth can easily be undermined by ad fraud. The losses aren’t just monetary — fraud also skews the accuracy of datasets, drives bad user acquisition decisions, and hides best-performing channels. To make the most of 2020’s opportunities, fraud prevention needs to remain a key priority for growth marketers.

    What did ad fraud look like in 2019?

    Mobile ad fraud is a global issue and happens when fraudsters siphon off advertisers’
    budget by exploiting mobile advertising technology. All advertisers, no matter the vertical,
    can be affected. Fraudsters don’t discriminate – they simply follow the money.

    In 2019, Adjust rejected nearly 200 million fraudulent app installs, saving its clients a total of nearly half a billion ($450 million) in ad spend and allowing them to reinvest it in channels that deliver real value.

    Fast-growing regions like Southeast Asia can be especially attractive to fraudsters, as fraud
    prevention tools usually aren’t as commonplace. In SEA as a whole, Adjust rejected just
    over four million paid installs throughout the course of the year, saving clients in the region a total of $12.5 million.

    But our fraud prevention filters only work when clients activate them, so the real number is
    likely far, far higher. We also typically see that a brand’s fraud rates dramatically decline just a few days after they switch on our fraud filters because fraudsters immediately realize that the app is protected and move onto the next unprotected app.

    Fraud methods also changed throughout the year. At the start of 2019, our Mobile Benchmarks tool showed that Click Injection was by far the most common type of fraud
    (accounting for 53% of all rejected attributions). Since then, we’ve seen a clear shift in the
    use of Click Injection to Click Spam: this quarter, Click Spam has become the most popular
    type of fraud (accounting for 39% of all rejected attributions), while Click Injection rates have dropped to 36%. Fake Users account for 13%, and SDK Spoofing comes in at 12%.

    The key takeaway for marketers is to understand that ad fraud constantly evolves.
    Fraudsters are extremely skilled and are constantly developing new ways to spoof
    advertisers — so brands need to be one step ahead.

    Going forward: how to protect your app in 2020

    The only surefire way to prevent fraud is to work with fraud prevention filters. Many brands
    can’t imagine buying media without them – American video game publisher Kongregate said fraud prevention filters were “like getting the best insurance you can have for marketing”. These make fraud financially unsustainable — meaning it actually costs far more time and resource for fraudsters to find workarounds to filters than it is to make money.

    With fraud changing every day, it’s also essential that marketers educate themselves on the topic. Start by asking your advertising partners what exactly they are doing to combat fraud (and don’t take “we don’t have any fraud on our network” for an answer!).

    A good network will share where traffic is coming from. A good network will also have full
    measurement from impression to click, will be able to explain trends, and work with the
    marketer on optimizing towards campaign goals. And if a source sounds too good to be true, that’s because it probably is. It doesn’t take an intensive investigation to figure out that a source can’t possibly offer ‘higher-quality’ installs at half the cost than what an in-house media buying team can get installs for.

    If certain networks only deliver measurement for events further down the user conversion
    funnel, shady sources will keep thriving. Fraudsters thrive off black-box models, so
    transparency is essential.

    As adoption rates for smartphones rise, ad fraud will become more and more incentivized — and brands without the right fraud prevention strategies and tools in place will allow
    fraudsters to cash in.

    Only by working together will the industry be able to fight back. This is why Adjust created
    the Coalition Against Ad Fraud (CAAF), an alliance of partners who share a common goal: to finally move from reactive filtering to active fraud prevention. The coalition is open to all
    eligible partners and advertisers, and include members such as ironSource, Liftoff, and Aarki. Ultimately, we are working to create an industry that is more open, accountable and
    sustainable for all.

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