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Ad fraud is here to stay but here's how to beat it

Advertisers can avoid paying for clicks from non-existent users by using online verification and analysis tools

With an estimated three billion smartphone users globally, businesses are increasingly placing their marketing dollars in digital advertising as opposed to traditional channels.

This brings up the issue of digital advertising fraud - damages resulting from such fraud cost marketers up to US$7.2 billion (S$9.8 billion) a year.

The surge of online ad spend will only continue to provide rich pickings for fraudsters, but does that mean advertisers should shift their ad spend away, or accept ad fraud as the cost of digital advertising?

Eradicating ad fraud is challenging but not impossible.

Generally, mobile ad fraud is done by falsely triggering ad impressions/clicks on mobile websites and apps. Advertisers are basically paying for clicks from non-existent users.

The primary victims of ad fraud are advertisers and marketers. Consumers also become subjected to slow-loading websites, fake news, as well as botnet and malware proliferation.

This will create a long-term effect on publishers, whose revenue model is dependent on advertising.

As the installation of ad blockers becomes a common solution, publishers will experience a dip in authentic ad engagements and a loss of trust.

An ad fraud-free world is not impossible, but it will need the cooperation of all players.

By combining the technologies used by mobile measurement platforms and other anti-fraud tech service providers, a more robust, multi-tiered anti-fraud solution can be achieved.

There are thousands of websites and apps offering ad space for brands. Having control of ad placements, such as through direct buys, will lower the risk of fraud for advertisers.

Advertisers can also do the following to protect themselves:

USE AD VERIFICATION VENDOR

This allows media buyers to have their own ad servers and track their ad tags to lessen the impact of fraud. Advertisers can consider working with vendors to better evaluate, compare and validate data against each other.

VERIFY CAMPAIGN DATA

Audit campaign results for signs of fraud - check on suspicious publishers. Sample random publishers and analyse them manually or with automated tools.

AVOID EASY CAMPAIGN GOALS

Align objectives to business metrics. Avoid click-based goals. Go for more concrete goals like conversions that are harder to fake via click bots.

USE ANTI-FRAUD TOOLS

Third-party tracking companies, and some ad networks, have started building their own anti-fraud systems. These tools can now help marketers facilitate real-time traffic filtering.

KEEP CLOSE WATCH ON DATA

It is common for advertisers to leverage third-party platforms to track and analyse results.

Some fraudsters fake the number of installs, but they cannot turn a fake install into a real user.

Monitoring your own user activity data can help uncover fraudulent activity.

The writer is business development director for South-east Asia and Taiwan at Mobvista. This article appeared in The Business Times on June 26.

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