As the covers are blown up on the performance marketing ad-fraud prevalent in app advertising industry, advertisers are becoming more and more active in tackling the issue. Networks are waking up to the level and extent of the fraud. Bad publishers are facing deductions regularly now.
In this environment, one fraud is escaping notice and not getting the required visibility. That is : Converting a Google Play Store campaign to an APK campaign, and executed on alternate and many times shady alternate app stores!
For most clients, this easily forms 10-15% of the total inorganic installs (and also organic installs!!)! And this fraud is serious not only due to the ad budgets going into wrong direction, but due to major impacts it has on your branding! Most of these have APKs where malicious code is injected, and adware is piggy-backed on your app!! And remember that what is placed on these alternate app stores is not in your control and can be content which you don’t associate with your app.
And worse part is that many clients are completely unaware of how a Google Play Store campaign be converted into an APK campaign!!
How it is done, when I have only given Google Play Campaign URLs to pubs?
Basically, this is courtesy of how attribution is done. Whether your customer downloads from Google Play or via an APK file, the attribution platforms simply try to link a install with a click. If they see an install and a click, it is ASSUMED that the install came from the Google Play!! This is called the Attribution Blackhole. And the issue fundamentally is that the way attribution is done to link a click with an install does not factor in any analysis if whether the install really came from an APK file or a Google Play.
Only other step required : Extract the APK file from Google Play by using any standard APK extractor tools (there are enough apps in the market for this).
How do I loose due to this fraud?
Many advertisers would wonder what the issue is all about. Finally, you are getting a user, so what is there to loose? So what all is at stake here due to this fraud?
1. Advertising Payments : Simple and obvious loss. Advertisers pay a premium for Google Play Store campaigns, and APK campaigns are lower priced. So you are paying a higher amount than what should be the case.
2. Brand Issue : Apps uploaded on these stores have no checks on the authenticity of the apk, its content etc. Many apps we see on these stores actually have larger size of the apk than what the advertiser has on the play store. Most of the times, there is additional malicious code injected into the normal app. This code pulls personal information of the user, as well as runs additional adware in the background, piggybacked on your app! This adware eats battery, consumes data and has privacy issues for the user. For the user, all these will impact the app, since all statistics of the user handset will show the main app to be responsible for all this!! Here are some examples of this happening with some of the most popular apps globally (China network uses popular apps to push malicious code)
3. Organic Increase benefits : Inorganic advertising leads to higher play store ranking, more visibility and hence higher organic installs. APK campaigns do not generate this additional benefit. For many apps, this benefit is about 10-15% of higher installs due to organic
4. Valuation Issue : Even now (hard to believe!!), but popular media and venture capitalists look at the Google Play numbers to check the popularity if an app. Infact, market reach and active customers are derived using Play Store downloads and projected using normal metrics. An app which has been subjected to this fraud will loose this value susbstantially!
So what should I do??
1. This fraud is critical not only from advertising spends perspective, but also from brand safety point of view. You don’t want your app to be a carrier of adware!!
2. Talk to the experts!! mFilterIt (https://mfilterit.com) is the only fraud detection solution which consistently and accurately flags each and every install which comes via the APK route. This allows you to know exactly which installs are coming via APK, which network or publisher is responsible for it, and who to penalise! All in a single integrated package to give you a 360 degree view of all your frauds.
We wold be happy to audit your marketing campaigns of the past and give you a report on your exposure to fraud!