Over the past few years, ad fraud has become a critical and widespread issue for advertisers and app developers. Ad fraud is becoming increasingly pervasive in mobile advertising — a critical channel for advertisers in 2018 — and it’s not just growing, it’s evolving too. Between 2017 and 2018, research from Adjust found that mobile ad fraud rates nearly doubled, and the culprits are employing a number of tactics to camouflage their fraudulent activity.
In order to outsmart fraudsters and put an end to ad fraud, publishers, advertisers and third-party measurement tools and agencies must work together. Collaboration is key in ending ad fraud, and some actionable tactics advertising industry players can employ include leveraging third-party partnerships, using solutions with artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as working with industry groups to champion best practices.
Solutions with artificial intelligence and machine learning
Investing in artificial intelligence and machine learning can help to better model and predict fraud, allowing for proactive intervention. Most anti-fraud solutions are reactive, seeking to stop threats only once they have been identified and understood. However, by the time an issue has been stopped, not only has it already caused a lot of damage, but fraudsters likely have already evolved their tactics and found a new way to illicitly make money.
Traditional outlier detection provides some relief. However, new AI and ML techniques can see deeper connections between fraudulent events in order to break some cycles before they start. Furthermore, well-trained adversarial networks can model the behavior of malevolent elements and help make the system more resilient to new attacks. Investing in a comprehensive framework to fight ad fraud that leverages ML further supported by data, insights and human intervention is a viable step toward ending ad fraud.
Advertising and marketing technology providers should partner with verification and measurement firms, among others, to confirm that results, metrics and statistics are accurate and unbiased. Independent organizations such as Integral Ad Science (IAS), White Ops and DoubleVerify offer identification, scanning and real-time blocking solutions for protecting advertisers in programmatic ad environments. Automated advertising can cause transparency issues for advertisers and publishers, and can leave ads vulnerable to common fraudulent threats including mobile auto-redirects, undelivered video ads, phishing, pop-ups, auto-downloads and more — SDK spoofing, for example, was up 37% and fake installs rose 20% year-over-year from 2017 to 2018.
Some walled gardens and publishers without third-party partners ask brands to trust the accuracy of their metrics without a fact-checker. This decreases publishers’ credibility and hurts trust and transparency across the advertising landscape.
Working with industry groups to champion best practices
In addition to verification and measurement partners, ad tech companies can align with credible industry groups such as the Trustworthy Accountability Group and the Interactive Advertising Bureau to actively work to improve standards across the board. In particular, TAG, a consortium of industry groups committed to fighting ad fraud and promoting transparency in the digital advertising supply chain, found that certified channels had 83% less fraud versus noncertified ones.
Advertisers expect their content will be viewed by legitimate consumers with the potential to buy their products and services, but fraudsters can generate invalid traffic that misrepresents the actual audience being reached — and advertisers often end up paying for false metrics inflated by fraud. Advertising platforms can earn TAG’s Certified Against Fraud seal through an independent audit, so advertisers know they are reaching real people and publishers know they are only working with the most reputable partners.
By the end of 2018, advertisers are expected to lose around $5 billion to ad fraud. With advanced technology and strategic, credible partnerships, publishers, advertisers and agencies can come together to raise the standards for digital advertising and cut down on ad dollars lost to fraud. When advertising industry players team up together against ad fraud, they create a space to foster transparency, trust and accountability in advertising, leaving fraudsters exposed. With their powers combined, they can collectively ensure greater trust and transparency.
Rajiv Bhat is the Senior Vice President of Data Sciences and Marketplace at InMobi. For Data Sciences, he looks after machine learning at InMobi and in his Marketplace function, Rajiv oversees global network optimization, management and quality. Before he joined InMobi, Rajiv co-founded Mertado, a social shopping platform that was bought over by Groupon. Post the acquisition, Rajiv worked with Groupon as a Data Scientist in their Palo Alto office. Rajiv has built an eight-year career in data sciences and analytics and is deeply passionate about the potential that information untouched by hand has to improve our lives. He believes that the future will belong to the collective consciousness telling us what we want to know when we want to know it. Rajiv has an undergraduate degree in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics at the University of Colorado Boulder.