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Why Does the Fraud Persist?

Ryan Gauss
Posted on
By , VP of Product Development


It seems that almost every week there is a new article published stating what percentage of mobile ads are not viewed by real users. The ads are either viewed by fraudulent non human users or are never actually seen by the user but are displayed off screen or intentionally behind other content.

If there is such a spotlight continuously shining on this issue, why does it never appear to improve? The truth is most parties are not motivated to change anything. Sure whenever a new article hits the mainstream, companies rush around and state they are making changes to detect and prevent fraudulent ad views, but all that usually ends up happening is a rearrangement of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. As soon as the article is no longer in the public conscious, the issue gets swept under the rug and things go back to how they were before with very little changed.

It is unfair to lump all companies into this bucket because some have made changes and strides to detect and prevent fraud. Some even refund revenue discovered to be fraudulent, but unfortunately they are the exception rather than the norm.

The ad industry is lazy and they prefer to keep the status quo. We previously discussed how some ad agencies would rather earn less revenue by continuing to buy through exchanges even though buying directly would increase their bottom line. It is much easier for companies to turn their backs on this issue rather than implement measures to detect and prevent fraudulent traffic.

It is true that there is a lack of consensus and no official mobile viewability standards released yet which complicates the matter. Many companies and organizations are working hard to create these standards, but this will affect many companies claiming to already provide viewability measurement so the creation of these standards make take a while.

All parties in the mobile ad paradigm are not as quick to push aside this issue though. The advertisers themselves definitely want to prevent fraud at all times, since it is a waste of their money to display ads to fraudulent traffic. But there is no true consensus about how much traffic is fraudulent, so advertisers do not really know how much is affected. If it is a large dollar campaign aimed at increasing brand exposure they may not spend as much energy on reviewing the traffic, but with greater targeting and tracking capabilities becoming available for mobile their interest in fraudulent traffic is bound to increase.

The publishers are typically less likely to stop the fraudulent traffic until they are pressured to. The fraudulent traffic puts money in their pockets, so unfortunately they are less motivated to spend much energy investigating it. Their greatest threat is the advertiser requesting a refund after they detect the fraudulent traffic in hindsight. This threat is usually enough to cause them to prevent the obvious fraudulent traffic, but unfortunately there are some that are clearly aware of the fraud and even assist it.

If the mobile ad industry wants to clean up their reputation, every party involved needs to get on board to detect and prevent fraudulent traffic. This must occur at every phase of the process: advertiser, ad exchange and publisher. If all parties make a concerted effort to clean up the quality of traffic viewing mobile ads, then advertisers will feel more comfortable with moving a larger share of their budget to mobile.