Sure, fraud has been rampant in digital advertising. But how do marketers know what’s fraud?
To help define that answer, the Coalition Against Ad Fraud (CAAF) released Thursday what it says is the first standardized document on the topic, “Definitions of Mobile Fraud Schemes.”
Why this document? Founded about a year ago by mobile attribution firm Adjust, CAAF now has two dozen members, including ironSource, Vungle, InMobi and AdColony. The reason for releasing this document, the organization says, is to counter the “misinformation out there when it comes to what mobile ad fraud is.” The intended audience: advertisers, supply-side networks, third-party vendors and other industry participants.
Some history. While CAAF says this is the first such fraud-defining document, other organizations have tried their hand at drawing some of the boundaries. In 2013, for instance, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) issued a guide to best practices for reducing exposure to traffic fraud, which included descriptions of “how traffic bots generate false traffic” and how they “infect legitimate systems.”
And a 2014 IAB document highlighted “Anti-Fraud Principles and Proposed Taxonomy,” which included definitions about such terms as “crawler masquerading as a legitimate user,” “proxy traffic,” and hijacked tags.
The kinds of mobile fraud. The CAAF report — which notes that mobile ad fraud includes faked impressions, faked installs and click spam — makes a distinction between compliance fraud and technical fraud. Technical fraud exploits an attribution and analytics platform to “poach attribution [or] introduce a fake conversion,” while compliance fraud involves misuse of an Insertion Order.
According to CAAF, technical fraud schemes include install/conversion fraud and attribution fraud, while compliance fraud schemes include:
- False targeting (especially geo-based targeting)
- Mixing in undesired traffic sources (incentivized, adult, redirect/pop, etc.)
- Intentful over-delivery
- Unauthorized rebrokering of offers
Why this matters to marketers. Although ad fraud has become a huge concern for marketers, tackling the issue requires understanding the dimensions. An ad’s viewability, to take one example, can be fraud if it is misrepresented by the inventory seller or the exchange, but only if the specs (% of pixels over what period of time seen) are outside of some accepted standard.
Mobile devices have their own set of vulnerabilities that also require platform-specific definitional guidelines, such as how to attribute an app install to a given mobile ad when there could be other drivers behind that download. As the population of Internet of Things devices, smart cars and connected TVs join mobile and desktop, determining what is fraud, what is bad technical implementation and what is an unrealistic expectation will require an agreed-upon set of industry definitions.
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