Opinion

Mobile ad fraud in apps: Why aren’t Australian agencies doing more?

While the mammoth problem of mobile ad fraud has captured the world's attention, M&C Saatchi Mobile's ANZ director Bobbie Gersbach believes it's time Australia sat up and took note.

For us in mobile media, 2017 is the year of the ‘f’ word. ‘Fraud’ may not be the word that comes immediately to mind, but rest assured that it’s every bit the rude and disruptive expletive in the context of our day-to-day.

It’s a huge problem for the industry, but one media agencies are actually well equipped to deal with, with the right determination and access to talent.

Accessing quality in-app ad inventory tends to present a competitive advantage for mobile-savvy advertisers due to both scale and attention. Hence, in-app ad fraud detection should well and truly be on our radar, both for the benefit of brands and for the longevity of the mobile media industry.

So why do we hear so little from other media agencies on the subject? What is the industry doing about the ‘f’ word?

It’s not only media agencies who should be held accountable for ad fraud detection. On the technology side, app attribution platforms have also been proactively developing tools, and brands should also be leading the conversation and helping themselves. However, with recent events (e.g. Uber suing their media agency for USD $40 million for alleged mobile ad fraud), it’s become clear that the industry holds media agencies at least partially accountable for ad fraud detection. It’s hence surprising that agencies in Australia aren’t talking about mobile ad fraud more, or indeed at all.

Sure, viewability certainly got some air time (and still does), however the solutions being championed by the industry such as MOAT and IAS have been anything but mobile-first. These solutions remain, at best, capable of only partially detecting the fraud occurring on mobile.

Why is it that despite the fact that 64% of our digital consumption occurs on mobile, of which 90% is in-app, app media fraud is not higher on the agenda?

Certainly, the susceptibility to fraud within mobile app media is real, and the lack of governance at an industry level presents a challenge which perhaps many brands and generalist media agencies are putting into the ‘too hard basket’. As a result, the reality is that too many advertisers are ignoring an entire channel and providing their competitors with an opportunity to gain share. But in order to capitalise on this missed opportunity, while also eliminating media wastage, what can be done to combat fraud?

It can be rather daunting to wrap one’s head around all the ways advertisers are being defrauded online. The technical know-how required to fully understand how bots, click farms and a wide range of attribution fraud techniques are leveraged is often beyond a generalist or even a digital media buyer’s grasp. This is not to insult a typical media buyer’s intelligence – on the contrary, this speaks to the constantly evolving genius of the fraudster (however misplaced). Fraud detection and prevention is becoming a specialism unto itself.

This said, it’s really media agencies who ought to be in a unique position to eradicate fraud on behalf of the advertiser:

  • By instigating fraud benchmarks agreed upon by the advertiser, agency and publisher: They often have access to data across multiple categories and markets to put robust benchmarks in place. E.g. What’s an acceptable click to install time pattern?
  • Making good on compensation: Their group buying power and trading relationships should facilitate the required compensation agreements with publishers based on these benchmarks

The ideal solution combines specialisation, data, common sense and mobile trading relationships, all of which media agencies should be able to fulfill.

The ‘f’ word needs to be an expectation rather than a fear for advertisers and agencies, and their mobile processes should not only be geared up for fraud detection, but critically for compensation on the buying side (after all, there’s no point in going to all of this effort without saving media dollars).

Bobbie Gersbach is ANZ director, M&C Saatchi Mobile.

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