Fraud fighting takes teamwork.
Mobile measurement and attribution platform Tune rolled out a fraud prevention solution on Thursday that aims to help marketers and ad networks share campaign data and take action on it in real time.
“Marketers and their ad partners need to collaborate rather than finger point; there’s enough blame for everyone to take some,” said Tune CEO Peter Hamilton.
The tool, Hamilton said, is predicated on the need for transparency in the ongoing effort to tamp down on ad fraud, especially in the mobile app space, where the obsession with installs leaves advertisers vulnerable to nefarious practices, like click spamming and click injection.
Tune allows marketers and their ad tech partners to access to the same information, including criteria decided in advance, being used to determine while a campaign is still running whether the traffic is of dubious origin or if certain installs look fishy.
“There are a lot of black-box solutions for fraud that tell you when something looks suspicious without any real data to back it up and without sharing the rule behind why it thinks a particular traffic source is broken,” Hamilton said.
Marketers can develop a set of if-this-then-that rules to automatically reject certain debatable installs and behavior, and a set of softer, more probabilistic rules that flag seemingly suspicious activity so that developers are protected from threats they didn’t necessarily think of to specify in their IO.
Fraud reports show marketers the lag time between click and install to help suss out bot-driven actions and install validation reports combine rejected installs by source so that advertisers can see how many junky installs they’re getting per ad partner in real time.
All of that information is also shared with the ad networks so they can halt traffic sources in mid-flight.
“Marketers should be in constant communication with their ad partners,” said Piyush Shah, chief product officer at mobile ad network inMobi, one of Tune’s partners. “This way, both parties are able to catch fraud ‘in the act,’ so to speak, rather than catching it long after a campaign is completed.”
The system also issues recommendations on actions the marketer can take, like “halt traffic immediately” or “investigate sub-publishers.”
Tune hopes this system cuts bad networks and shady publishers off from revenue opportunities.
Overall, performance marketers are getting savvier at identifying traffic patterns that don’t add up, scrutinizing and questioning every click in their campaign to ensure that they’re getting the full value of what they paid for, Shah said.
But that usually happens in retrospect. Marketers look back at a campaign after it’s run and if they don’t like what they see, they demand their money back from their ad network. In most cases, however, the ad network has already paid the sub-publishers in question, which means the network is left holding the bag.
Makegoods leave ad partners in the lurch, but they’re also frustrating for marketers, which have to carve out the time to renegotiate the terms for a campaign that didn’t deliver as promised.
At the same time, some marketers are complicit in letting fraud flourish by buying low-quality traffic to drive volume.
“It’s a vicious cycle and no one in the value chain wins,” Shah said. “We need to stop pointing fingers and start building accountability.”
Meanwhile, publishers that are on the level are sick of being tarred with the same brush as the supply-side underbelly.
“Bad-quality traffic in general is something that reflects on all of us even if you’re one of the good ones,” said Olivier Vincent, GM of WeatherBug, a weather app owned by GroundTruth (which recently rebranded from xAd). WeatherBug is vetting Tune’s fraud solution.
“But I cannot say that fraud is someone else’s problem,” Vincent said. “It’s up to everyone to contribute to cleaning up the space as fast as possible.”
In addition to Tune, other attribution providers are also trying to encourage better dialogue between marketers and their ad partners. In November, Adjust formed a coalition of ad networks that are in the process of working together to create a framework for mobile fraud detection and prevention.