How to avoid fraud when promoting your app

In the digital advertising environment, fraud has always been very present. In the case of app promotions, new forms of attribution fraud have emerged, far more creative than what we had seen in the digital environment. Specialized studies say that 40% of the advertising investment ends up being fraudulent.

mediasmart has been trying to educate the market about this type of activity for some time. Now a series of factors have come together to make us think that we are close to a turning point: reference advertisers in the App world have gone public with some network’s common practices, with law suits included, and the tracking and attribution solutions have aligned, offering tools to identify fraudulent practices.

Let us tell you a little bit more about what we see in the market so that you can be aware and make sure you are not taken advantage of.

The problem

In the digital advertising ecosystem - and in particular in what refers to app promotions - there are certain generalized practices that are, in the best of cases, unethical, and at worst, illegal. In many cases these practises are just about finding ways to fool attribution systems:

  • Creatives that generate forced clicks: the typical interstitial that asks you whether you are interested or not, and that forces you to clcik YES or NO in order to get out. This is not a terrible user experience per se, but it breaks the level playing field for providers. Those who use it generate a lot more clicks (like 100x more) than others than don´t. And given the last click attribution schemes, this means 100x more probability of getting organic installs or installs coming form other advertising channels attributed to them.

  • Creatives that generate auto-redirects to the app store: that is, a user is redirected to the app store after seeing an ad and without clicking on it. This will increase conversion rates for the provider, but will create an awful user experience that will not benefit your brand.

  • Networks that generate click injection, click spam and other forms of attribution fraud: By simply sending a lot of made up clicks, or by generating clicks at exactly the right time, providers using this practises can attribute to themselves what otherwise would most likely be organic installs, or installs that should legitimately go to other providers. In the best case scenario you would be paying a "tricky" provider for the acquisition istead of an ethical one. In the worst case scenario you would just be paying money for an acquisition that was coming to your for free.

  • Publishers that generate false user identifiers that frequently change: Publishers have a way of sending an offer for an ad space with a different native user ID every time, making it virtually impossible for you to know that the offer is actually coming from the same phone. Publishers doing this can generate a lot more revenue in regular campaigns that only look for impressions or clicks (the publisher will not be subject to frequency capping) and can also benefit from a lot more conversions if they are sophisticated enough (think click farms!)

The companies that generate income with this type of practices are dedicated to constantly innovating and often, given the lack of transparency in the market and the abundance of intermediaries, cannot be immediately identified.

The consequences

The generalization of the mentioned practices above directly affects the market and all its players in a very negative way:

  • Overpayment in media buying by advertisers, who often pay for organic users
  • Unrealistic expectations concerning acquisition KPIs
  • Imbalance in the competition; Since ethical suppliers cannot compete in the market and those that best apply the different "tricks" , that benefit.
  • Generalized confusion, magnified by the ecosystem fragmentation and lack of transparency

The solution

The solution for advertisers against the problems mentioned above is to establish a closer relationship with trusted technology suppliers, thanks to which they can:

  • Measure: Measure not only clicks and installs, but also impressions, to make sure you catch those with unhealthy CTRs (forced clicks)
  • Detect fraud: Nowadays all reputable attribution companies in app offer a fraud detection solution. You can see the list of our certified partners, and you can ask them specifically what they are doing to detect the issues mentioned above.
  • Buy media and optimize with 100% transparency: request granularity and transparecy in everything you do, even the time elapsed between clicks and conversions
  • Minimize the number of links in the value chain, removing those that are nothing more than intermediaries