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How to protect your mobile app campaigns from the threat of digital ad fraud



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February 1, 2023 | 5 min read

A recent report found that the rate of install fraud on mobile apps worldwide was 7% for Apple iOS apps and 12% for Android apps. Here, TrafficGuard lay out some preventitive measures for your own app campaigns.

The digital advertising world is becoming a battleground as companies race to win over customers. In this heated competition, marketers are desperately seeking ways to engage users on platforms like Google Play and the App Store. But their efforts are being sabotaged by the growing threat of ad fraud. Fraudsters are infiltrating mobile campaigns with fake traffic, and if marketers don't act now, this problem will spiral out of control.

The statistics on ad fraud are alarming. A recent report found that the rate of install fraud on mobile apps worldwide was 7% for Apple iOS apps and 12% for Android apps. Additionally, last year, Apple had to deactivate around 170 million fraudulent customer accounts. The post-attribution fraud rate for iOS apps was also found to be a staggering 20%.

The most concerning prediction is that the total cost of ad fraud will reach $100bn by 2023. Historically, ad fraud was more prevalent among display ads and low-quality publishers, but fraudsters are always finding new ways to stay ahead of their victims. As smartphone usage continues to rise in the Asia Pacific region, the scale of ad fraud is also expected to increase.

In addition to lost revenue, marketers also face a brand safety risk because of ad fraud. This occurs when a company’s adverts appear alongside offensive or illegal content on YouTube and other platforms, thereby posing a risk to its reputation.

The catch-22 for mobile app marketers

Especially for mobile app scaling efforts, ad fraud skews metrics, drains budgets, and makes it impossible to grow user acquisition or scale at speed.

Leveraging multiple advertising channels is the key to boosting user acquisition and driving scale. To get the best chance of boosting user numbers but marketers have got to invest in multiple channels, including social media, UAC (Google’s Universal App Campaigns), and advertising networks. Using a combination of channels helps improve UA, and also lowers CPI and CPA.

But (there’s always a but), the more channels engaged by an app, the higher the risk of fraud. The more fraud, the worse results. The worse results, the more money is thrown at the problem. And we soon find ourselves in a cycle of investing large amounts of money into channels delivering poor results because of IVT. This puts a lot of marketers off scaling their marketing efforts, capping their growth and making rapid scaling impossible.

Misattribution within those channels is another hurdle on the scaling sprint. It occurs when fraudsters make it appear a channel is delivering more value than it really is, and this has a snowball effect on the campaign’s performance. A single install attributed to the wrong source will inflate the value of that source not just by one install, but by the value of all the subsequent events of that new user. You may think your mobile measurement partner (MMP) is protecting you from these attribution errors, but they can be easily fooled by ad fraud.

Make ad fraud protection a priority, don’t neglect it

Currently, the stakes are high for brand marketers going into 2023. With the impending demise of third-party cookies and privacy concerns, the advertising technology industry is facing heavy disruption.

So what can be done? The first tactic is to fine-tune your programmatic ad buying, ensuring it only works with premium supply paths and quality publishers. Marketers can manage the tracking, analysis and strategy of their campaigns using a controlled budget. By proactively verifying advertising engagements and proactively blocking invalid traffic from bots, fraud, or competitor clicks, ad spends loss is redirected back into campaign investment in real-time.

In addition, businesses should invest in sophisticated ad fraud tools that verify sources of traffic and optimize out of those of poor quality before impressions are bid. Transparency is also critical: marketers need to know where their ad spend is going in order to mitigate the risk of fraud. Tools that provide detailed reporting into every dollar spent at the click, campaign and organisation levels can help deliver that necessary visibility.

Keeping your traffic clean and fraud-free from the start is the best way to keep install numbers high and ensure consistently engaged users. By stopping invalid traffic from reaching campaigns, marketers can free up vital ad budgets to target more relevant users, and guarantee those who are clicking through campaigns and installing their app have genuine intent.

Online ad fraud today is one of the biggest organised crime businesses in the world. With the uncertainty caused by the end of cookies and the changing online advertising ecosystem, its going to be a rocky 2023. However, the sooner preventative action against ad fraud is taken, the smoother the ride will be for brands next year.

Join TrafficGuard in the fight against ad fraud and be one of the first 100 apps to achieve success.

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