By Moneka Khurana
In today’s complicated advertising ecosystem, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting mobile applications as they are easy to attack. The fraud is typically carried out by creating fake ad traffic, getting bots to click on the ads or creating fictitious mechanisms to deliver ads that are not seen by the consumers. Brand safety — keeping brands’ campaigns as well as reputation safe from online frauds — has become one of the most important components in the digital advertising industry today.
Ad frauds can be highly damaging for the brand that spends decades building relationships with consumers. Findings from research indicate that the total size of digital ad fraud stands at a staggering $1.63 billion. Digital commerce contributes more than 51% to the total ad fraud in India, whereas app frauds contribute over 85% to total digital ad fraud. In several organisations, the digital teams primarily focus on the app, leaving the web space vulnerable.
A word of caution
Here are some ad frauds that marketers must take note of:
Installation fraud: This is a mobile fraud wherein malicious software is used to create fake installs. Sometimes, device information is rigged to send virtual information to the app store. It’s like buying fake social media likes or shares that have no real value for the advertiser buying high-value prospects.
Attribution fraud: Attribution fraud occurs when fraudsters try to capitalise on either the ‘first click’ or the ‘last click’. They identify users who are about to make a purchase, and artificially stuff clicks just before the purchase. They do this by using the user’s details to make it look authentic.
Non-human traffic: This fraud simulates a visitor’s behaviour on the publisher’s site to generate an impression with the help of the click. Bots are used for such frauds as they can be retargeted potentially. They can either run from data centres or from people’s laptops when contaminated by malicious viruses.
Domain spoofing: Fraudsters portray their websites as premium websites. Once the user clicks on them, the malware starts running on the user’s browser and gains access to ad tags. It starts injecting ads into the user’s browser regardless of which website they are on. This type of fraud poses serious risks to brand safety.
Video auto-play: As videos are becoming a popular medium for generating content, it is also attracting fraudsters to earn more by injecting erudite fraud techniques on that premium advertising channel. In video auto-play fraud, fraudsters play video ads automatically without the permission of the user in the background when the user is not watching.
Invisible pixels: This kind of a fraud occurs when ads are stuffed as a single pixel on the screen, which is not visible at the user’s end, but the advertisers are charged for the impression. It consists of multiple ads on the publisher’s side via 1×1 images.
All these frauds are increasingly leading to weak brand safety. Hence, marketers need to be empowered with ways to assess, track and combat frauds occurring at various life stages in brand marketing. Digital marketers are now emphasising on quality criteria such as high visibility for their advertising and a trusted environment.
As mobile marketing continues to be a primary tool, marketers need to keep up with ways to combat weak brand safety and ad fraud issues. Marketers and subject matter experts will need to stimulate industry dialogue, and devise possible safeguards against the issues around ad fraud.
(The author is country manager, MMA India)