Mobile ad fraud is when an individual or group attempts to exploit the publishers or advertisers by unfair use of mobile advertising technology. The main object of ad fraud is to create holes in the advertising loop and drain the budgets.
Mobile ad fraud is establishing itself as an industry built on illegal and unfair terms. Why does it exist at all? In any marketplace, dead weight loss or simply loop holes occur due to imbalanced market forces – Demand and Supply. In mobile space, it is the mobile content and the mobile marketing budgets. In such a scenario, advertisers find it increasingly difficult to find quality digital real estate to advertise on due to slow production process of mobile content. The increase in advertising demand and audience as compared to the limited content inventory creates a huge vacuum that fraudsters can fill.
What are the types of ad fraud? It takes a lot of courage to admit that as the mobile ad industry is progressing, the fraudsters are coming up with more sophisticated ways to create nuisance. Below are some of the commonly seen ad fraud types.
Bots – Bots are basically scripts running from servers. Sophisticated bots try to mimic human behavior by exploiting users’ cookies. Such bots focus on generating fake actions.
Click Farms – Another form of human traffic is hidden ads. The ads are invisible to human users as they are hidden behind the main ads. Invisible ads are exercised in the form of pixel stuffing. Each ad is stuffed into a single pixel that makes impossible to spot.
Cookie Stuffing – It is practice of attaching multiple cookies to the user not within him/her knowledge. In the affiliate marketing, a publisher gets a commission on the sale coming from a recommended visitor. With cookie stuffing, fraudster gets paid instead of the publisher by dropping multiple cookies after someone views a page or clicks on a single link.
Domain Spoofing – The user is misled to download a hoaxed application with a malware that runs a code in the background injecting ads on user’s browser. Fraudsters obtain access to the code in the ad tag and impersonate any property. The advertiser think that their ads are published on premium websites, however, they are published on substandard properties.
Ad Injection – It is done through a browser toolbar or an adware plugin. The injected ad replaces other ads or can be seen on some parts of the web pages that are not supposed to have ads at all.
Are we as an Industry doing enough? Lack of industry action in combating fraud means that a fraudster is less likely to be caught. The magnitude of operation certainly demands all the stakeholders to take prudent steps in order to prevent before the damage done. There are a lot of ways in which publishers, advertisers and agencies are implementing measures, but a long way to go. Progress is being made.