Ad Fraud – How Bots & Device farms can be stopped from stealing 30% of mobile app revenues.

AdTiming, a world’s premium mobile marketing platform and AppsFlyer, the world’s leading mobile attribution & marketing analytics platform, recently met at an event discussion on the challenges faced by the industry from advertising fraud.  Yobo Zhang 张云鹏, Product Vice President of AdTiming and Wei Wang 王玮, General Manager of China at AppsFlyer, shared their views on how the industry needs to work together to combat this growing issue.

Advertisers and app developers have rightly become concerned that a significant amount of marketing and user acquisition budgets are being lost to fraud, with AppsFlyer estimating the loss worldwide to be US$700-800m in Q1 of 2018 alone. The AppsFlyer report, entitled ‘The State of Mobile Fraud Q1 2018’, shows that mobile app marketers were exposed to 30% more fraud compared to 2017, and the share of fraudulent installs has grown by 15%, tainting 11.5% of all marketing driven installs.’

Bots and device farms are being used to defraud companies, especially in shopping, gaming, finance and travel on both Android and IOS devices. The net effect then is that the business model for developers and publishers is under threat in the short term due to loss of revenue and in the long term due to the credibility of the mobile channel itself to deliver value to advertisers. “Advertisers and Developers certainly have corresponding reaction towards fraud; yet, it is a professional job, which imposes a huge challenge for marketing teams. Therefore, from a professional point of view, advertisers and developers are advised to handover these criteria to the 3rd parties like AppsFlyer,” Said Wang Wei, AppsFlyer’s General Manager of China.

Yobo Zhang, Product VP at AdTiming said, “From a long-term point of view, ad fraud is similar to quench a thirst with poison. We hope to work with more data platforms or anti-fraud parties to fight against ad fraud. AdTiming has developed an anti-cheating product which integrates with the AppsFlyer protocol to identify, quarantine and remove fraudulent installs and clicks. This is the kind of technical solution that advertisers and developers must make as part of the security solution across the entire value chain of mobile marketing.” Zhang added, “Fraud is an industry wide issue, only by sharing development protocols, SDKs, API’s within our industry that we can deliver on our responsibility. Industry associations and agreed best practices will also play a role, both here within China and around the world”

Yobo Zhang, Product VP at AdTiming

Wei Wang of AppsFlyer, agrees, “One promising trend is the consensus being reached on the severity and harm of the cheating across the whole industry, with an increasing number of advertisers, advertising platforms, third parties, joining in the line to curb the cheating altogether.”

Wei Wang, Appsflyer’s General Manager of China

The issue facing the industry is one that AppsFlyer has documented in their report entitled ‘State of Mobile Fraud – Q1 2018’, which covered 6,000 apps and 10 billion installs over a 5-month period.  It found that fraud comes in waves and that bots are now the most dangerous threat, replacing device farms as the most popular form of attack responsible for over 30% of fraudulent installs. Shopping, gaming, finance and travel apps are the hardest hit with some US$275m exposed over the first three months of 2018.

“AdTiming is taking the advertising issue fraud very seriously both within our company and also by engaging with the industry to make changes to combat this threat,” Said Yobo Zhang.

As ad fraud continue to endanger the whole AdTech industry, it is in urgent necessity that the whole community ought to confront this issue together to ensure the wellbeing of the industry and the combined interest of the mobile marketing community.