Digital ad fraud is growing at breakneck speed. This year, marketers are expected to lose over $100 billion to ad fraud collectively. The situation is scary, and the future seems bleak. However, many marketers and brands still successfully turn a blind eye to ad fraud, and they do it because of a lack of awareness. Awareness of the different types of ad fraud can help you be more vigilant and cautious towards the rising threats and help you save your ad budgets from getting wasted. With this blog, we hope to help you bring this awareness.
As part of the “Know the Difference series”, first, we will discuss two of the most common types of mobile ad fraud prevalent in the industry. These are click spamming and click injection. While both terms may seem similar, they follow different procedures to carry out ad fraud and steal your marketing budget.
Let’s look at them in more detail:
Know the difference: Click Spamming and Click Injection
What is Click Spamming?
Click spamming is a relatively primitive way to commit ad fraud. As the name suggests, click spamming is the act of generating a large number of fake clicks on an ad. This type of fraud mostly takes place on mobile apps but isn’t limited to them. In some cases, click spamming can also be observed on websites accessed through mobile devices.
In most cases, an unsuspecting user downloads an app laced with malware. In others, the websites visited by the users are operated by fraudsters. The malware allows fraudsters to click on ads without the user’s knowledge. This kind of fraud can take many forms. Some examples are:
The user never sees the ads, but they are live in the background, and the fraudsters are clicking on them. This is also known as click flooding.
Apps running in the background can generate clicks anytime or throughout the day (and night).
Common examples of such apps include launchers, battery-saving apps, and memory-cleaner apps.
Some fraudsters mask views as engagement by the user and get paid for that engagement. And in some cases, fraudsters may also send clicks from the device to different vendors to collect a payout.
While Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store have security measures to detect and ban apps loaded with malware, fraudsters have found innovative ways to bypass them. For instance, some apps download malware after the app has been downloaded on a user’s device by disguising it as an update for the app.
Impact of Click Spamming
The most apparent impact of click spamming is the wasted advertising budget. However, click spamming has a deeper, much more dangerous impact on advertisers- skewed advertising data. Because of click spamming, certain advertising platforms and apps (publishers) may deliver an impressive number of clicks on your ad. When this is reflected in the reporting of your campaigns, it may make said ad platforms and publishers appear more impactful than they really are. This keeps the advertisers in the dark and they make business decisions based on these skewed metrics which eventually impacts the performance of the digital ad campaigns. Moreover, the advertisers also keep spending on these platforms under the impression that it is providing them with performance.
What is Click Injection?
Click injection is an ad fraud technique similar to click spamming but more sophisticated. For advertisers, that means that detecting and avoiding instances of click injection is exponentially more difficult than detecting click spamming. Instead of frantically clicking on an ad, click injection uses a single click to conduct organic traffic poaching. This is done by ‘injecting’ a click right at the point of download.
Fraudsters make use of Android apps to listen to “download broadcasts”.
Simply put, these broadcasts are sent by Android apps whenever a user downloads a malicious app that has an Android broadcaster that notifies the fraudsters about a new install. When the fraudsters are notified of an app install, they ‘inject’ a click right before the installation is complete. When this happens, the fraudulent app gets access to the user’s unique device tracking code. Using this code, the fraudsters can make their click appear authentic.
By doing this, the fraudsters receive the credit (and the payout) for the app install, even though the app install is usually organic.
Impact of Click Injection
This sophisticated fraud technique not only leads to the wastage of ad spends, but also hampers the organic traffic of the advertiser. Not just the advertisers, but the genuine publishers are also a victim of click injection. Due to organic traffic stealing, they lose payout to a fraudulent install.
Furthermore, click injections attribute organic downloads to fraudulent websites and apps. This can mess with the ad reporting data advertisers use to make decisions about their future campaigns. Using this skewed data, advertisers may continue spending their budgets on ineffective platforms, resulting in more wasted ad spend.
This also costs advertisers in the form of lost opportunities by diverting their attention from other effective platforms that may deliver better results.
How can advertisers protect their ad spends?
As mentioned earlier, protection begins with awareness. Now that you know about click spamming and click injection, you can look at ways to detect these activities and take corrective actions. While click spamming can be detected manually, click injection is a sophisticated form of mobile ad fraud which is hard to detect by humans. These sophisticated fraud techniques are discreet, and human-like which makes it difficult to detect with general ad fraud detection practices. For these reasons, marketers valuing holistic protection must look beyond basic ad fraud tracking techniques to prevent mobile ad fraud.
mFilterIt’s advanced ad fraud detection tool helps eliminate invalid traffic across the funnel using AI/ML and data science capabilities. The solution identifies sophisticated fraud patterns based on device, behavioral, and heuristic checks and ensures that the fraudulent traffic doesn’t seep through the funnel.
Click fraud and click injection both affect marketers at multiple levels. Wasting their current advertising budgets to skewing campaign performance data that leads to subpar optimization decisions, these fraudulent activities are a roadblock to you making the most of your marketing dollars.
Ad fraud that manipulates attribution is a serious problem that can be incredibly difficult to detect without the right tools. This may mean an initially high investment into marketing, but in today’s advertising landscape, this investment is a necessity.