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Mobile Ad Fraud in 2020: Tracking the Evolution of Trust and Transparency in In-App Advertising

Team InMobi
Team InMobi
4 min read
Posted on December 20, 2019
Mobile Ad Fraud in 2020: Tracking the Evolution of Trust and Transparency in In-App Advertising

Mobile ad fraud has long been a major concern with everyone in the in-app advertising space, siphoning away budgets, reducing campaign effectiveness and making the entire ecosystem less trustworthy. But, issues around ad fraud have not gone unheeded. The industry has made major strides in its fight against fraudsters in 2019, and our team of mobile marketing and advertising experts expect this push to continue throughout 2020.

Highlighting the Current State of Fraud in Mobile Advertising

As Steven Woolway from DoubleVerify noted in conversation with InMobi’s David Di Angelo in 2019, mobile in-app ad fraud remains exorbitantly high – and will remain in the millions of dollars in the foreseeable future. Click spam, click injection, SDK spoofing, faked installs, click flooding (a form of click fraud) and invalid traffic (IVT) are just some of the types of mobile ad fraud that will continue to plague digital advertising in 2020.

Mobile app install fraud is an especially pressing concern, and is likely to remain a major issue for mobile marketing professionals looking for new users for their mobile apps. In 2019, marketers lost an estimated $13 billion to app install fraud. Considering that fraud costs in this space almost doubled from 2018 to 2019, marketers need to be worried about this rising trend.

How to More Effectively Fight All Forms of Fraud

What can brands do to more efficiently protect their in-app ad spend from fraud in 2020? For starters, machine learning (ML) can go a long way towards fighting just about any type of fraud. By analyzing how fraud has appeared in the past, ML algorithms can help predict when new issues are likely to arise in real time.

Towards the end of 2019, a number of businesses, including InMobi, released their sellers.json file, which serves a similar role as the IAB’s app-ads.txt initiative but for sell-side platforms. Vinny Rinaldi, Head of Addressable Media and Technology at The Hershey’s Company, Abhay Singhal, CEO of InMobi Marketing Cloud and Co-Founder of InMobi Group, and others predicted that sellers.json adoption will likely grow significantly in 2020, especially as advertisers and their partners push the industry in this direction. And, Joe Ranzenbach, Director of Product Management, Mobile Products at IAS, noted that increased use of the Open Measurement SDK will help boost transparency and trust as well.

“When I joined IAS in 2016, third party measurement for brand safety, fraud, and viewability had a limited footprint in mobile in-app. Many advertisers were hesitant to spend on mobile in-app inventory without the mechanism of trust that independent verification provided. IAS lead the Open Measurement initiative, which launched via the IAB’s Tech Lab in 2018 and achieved industry scale in 2019. In 2020, we’re looking towards removing any remaining friction and advancing towards realizing the full value of the initiative, enabling advertisers to verify at scale and focus more on reaching their intended audiences with confidence,” Ranzenbach said.

In addition, in 2020, expect marketers to take a closer look at where they’re buying and to cull supply sources that are likely to be introducing them to fraud. Mike Brooks recommended that others follow WeatherBug’s lead in taking a closer look at how publishers are being incentivized, to make sure that mobile user acquisition campaigns are not being subject to fraud on that end. Sean Muzzy, President of North America at Cadreon, further noted that they are taking a closer look at partners that provide paid installs, since this style of user acquisition can be particularly susceptible to fraud.

Ad networks, exchanges, agencies and everyone else in the programmatic advertising ecosystem has fraud in its sights. Kochava, which provides advanced fraud solutions, has seen an increased focus from its customers on reducing fraud.

“In 2020 we anticipate the continued trend of advertisers harnessing their row-level data to avoid fraud, protect ad spend and buy more intelligently across platforms,” said Jason Hicks, EVP of Growth at Kochava.

This is an area of particular interest to Muzzy. Not only will Cadreon be taking a deeper dive into fraud in the space, but they will also be selecting partners who are proactive about fraud protection and who are willing to pass back device IDs, as probabilistic fingerprinting could be inaccurate. And, they will be monitoring retention rates by channel to understand which partners are driving healthy subs.

While Woolway noted that it likely can’t be completely eliminated, there are fraud prevention steps that marketers can take to clamp down on it and overall boost trust and transparency in the ecosystem. In 2020, expect all programmatic players to prioritize efforts that boost transparency and help clamp down on fraud.

Charting 2020’s Top Mobile Advertising and Marketing Trends

How will brands more effectively understand, identify, engage and acquire mobile-first users? What steps will they take to drive real connections with consumers over mobile? Download InMobi’s 2020 trends report today for key insights on the future from the world’s top mobile experts.


Note: This is the third in a five-part series on the top mobile marketing and advertising trends of 2020. The first post covers how mobile in-app advertising overall is likely to evolve and mature in 2020, and the second post covers the top mobile advertising data usage trends of 2020. Be sure to stay tuned to the InMobi blog for more predictions.

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