Moneka Khurana
Guest Article

How lack of transparency and industry regulations are contributing to Mobile Ad Fraud

Marketers around the world have been battling the evil of ad fraud across various platforms for a few years now, but the success rate hasn’t improved much. According to a report on the state of mobile ad fraud in India, over 50 per cent of Indian marketers feel that mobile ad fraud will either increase or remain the same in 2019. Evidently, ad fraud has become a glaring issue that needs to be addressed immediately, and to do so, it is important to identify the various factors that contribute to its growth.

Surveys on state of ad fraud in India have revealed that the growing lack of transparency amongst various stakeholders that are a part of today’s mobile ad publishing chain, coupled with the absence of standardised regulatory practices, are two of the leading menaces that allow the existence of fraudulent activities in mobile advertising. Although marketers are adopting several methods, including both in-house prevention measures and external partnerships to help detect and prevent ad fraud, 90 per cent feel that they aren’t doing enough. For marketers, it is essential to understand how data transparency and regulatory practices in the mobile marketing space can help them reduce their vulnerability to mobile ad fraud.

The need for transparency

Digitisation has made consumers more accessible in a hyper-personalised manner through one single device, but it has simultaneously given rise to a complicated web of ‘middle-men’ involved in getting a marketer’s message across to a consumer. The emergence of different types of platforms like demand/supply side platforms, data management platforms, ad networks, etc. has created a chain of sorts through which an ad travels before it finally reaches the consumer, making it highly vulnerable to fraudulent activities at any given point in this supply chain from the marketer to the consumer.

Earlier, the process of sending out an ad was fairly simple; there was a fixed process for every media outlet – and each had a fixed price, fixed placement and fixed measurements of the advertising space. Marketers were completely aware of what they were paying a certain amount for, and what return on investment they could expect from a particular ad campaign. While the emergence of personalised, data-driven mobile advertising has definitely made it easier for marketers to know where, when and why a consumer is available on a certain platform, it has taken away their ability to know whether or not their targeted audience even saw their advertisement.

Fraudsters have numerous ways of manipulating an advertisement’s reach by showing higher CTR numbers, ad stacking, etc. Today, marketers have no way of knowing whether or not their advertisement was truly seen by a genuine user or not, as fraudsters can easily manipulate the number of views or clicks generated by any given advertisement.

Another reason why transparency is crucial for marketers is the placement of their ads on any mobile platform. The placement and positioning of any advertisement contributes greatly to how it is received by the intended audience. If an ad is placed next to inappropriate content, a user is likely to either ignore or develop a negative impression of not only the advertisement itself but also the brand, in turn harming the relationship between a brand and its target audience. Meanwhile, the marketer is completely unaware of this, and is therefore unable to understand the lack of returns from a seemingly successful mobile ad campaign.

Standardised industry regulations

Results from surveys conducted with Indian marketers have also revealed that the lack of industry regulations is one of the major factors that contribute to the rise of ad fraud. The global ad fraud spend is said to hit a value of USD 26 billion by 2020. Regulatory practices must be put into place because that value is just too high to be left unattended. The reason behind the absence of such measures is the rapid advancement of technology. Marketers have just begun to get a grip on digital marketing, whereas fraudsters have already found several loopholes to exploit the online ad space being used by marketers for their campaigns. Although some brands are working towards taking legal action against such fraudulent activities, fraudsters are much too fast to be held back by litigatory actions that take years to process.

Standardised industry regulations designed keeping the digital age in mind are required for the basic safety of not only marketers looking to save their ad expenditure, but also for publishers of online content, and consumers as well. Rules that protect every aspect and every stakeholder in the new advertising chain between a brand and a consumer will help protect the privacy and data generated by consumers, along with helping marketers reduce their costs on ad fraud.

In a world that is connected 24x7, consumers create opportunities for both, marketers and fraudsters, with every scroll and click on their screens. In order to maintain authenticity and trust between a brand and its users, transparent and open communication channels must be established between the various stakeholders involved in a digital ad chain. This will help in not only reducing the money wasted in ad fraud, but will also help brands create a stronger, deeper relationship with their users as well. Industry regulations that are made for the digital age will help both brands and consumers better understand how to protect their data from fraudulent platforms, hence creating a safer advertising space where even the smallest of brands can be protected from fraudulent activities.