We recently identified a new fraudulent “ad platform”.
INCRMNTAL has never raised the fraud “alert” previously, so I felt that it was important that I provide both background and what we found.
If you’ve been around in mobile advertising, you surely remember the “fraud era”.
A period between ca. 2017-2019 when the topic was on the mind of every mobile advertiser and mobile advertising related company.
Back then, it was estimated that around 22.6% of mobile ad spend was subject to be wasted to Fraud.
Fraud was everywhere, with fraudsters selling guaranteed performance (i.e. installs, purchases…), knowing that they only needed to game the attribution system.
Typical fraud types were:
First a reminder about our methodology of measurement – INCRMNTAL does not track clicks, individual conversions, or has any SDK with our mobile advertisers. Our platform utilizes causal AI to measure the relationship between changes in marketing, and achieved results.
So – if you’ve opened a new channel and gained more conversions – those would be measured to the new channel. Learn more about our methodology here, or schedule a live demo with us.
A recent ad platform, with several names, all affiliated with the same company, started showing up with many of our customers. The pattern was clear across each and every customer:
No matter what change was measured across these companies’ “assets” – no value was ever seen as being gained or lost. All conversions measured were cannibalizing the conversions generated by other ad platforms (or organics), and the revenue impact from this platform was nonexistent.
In order to conduct this analysis, we used the INCRMNTAL platform to run over 1,000 individual activities measurements, across all 11 countries this ad platform claims to operate, across over 20 advertisers. All analysis presented the same exact value: NO VALUE.
You can view several examples of measurements with explanation here.
Fraud is a serious problem in our industry, and unfortunately the main drivers in 2024 remain almost the same as the drivers during the Fraud Era.
The fraud era did create a wave of solutions. The topic was so “hot” during those years, that over two dozen anti-fraud solutions were born, the MMPs started reporting on fraud (or offering paid anti-attribution-fraud solutions).
The most important outcome of the fraud era was market education. You could not attend any industry event without the word fraud mentioned, and how can marketers avoid fraud.
Marketers did (mostly) get smarter about fighting fraud, but it seems that the topic got less and less interesting overtime, as Advertisers mostly prioritized well known ad platforms. But then came ATT.
I contributed to an AdExchanger article about the new wave of Fraud already in 2020.
What I saw then was the fact that Apple’s move of almost deprecating device level tracking, but leaving a loophole where fingerprinting is still possible (even though not allowed) would create a new chaotic world of attribution – one where the same conversion may now get tracked by multiple publishers, with no ability to deduplicate which player actually brought the conversion.
Moreover, SKAdNetwork wasn’t offering any protection or even monitoring against simple attribution fraud, allowing fraudulent publishers to (again) drown the market with fraud clicks to win the conversion.
Over the last few years, the number of successful ad platforms was a handful – Google, Meta, TikTok, a few major DSPs, and a few major SDK Ad Networks.
But beyond the major ad platforms, players such as Mistplay, EXMOX, AppLike, also stood out, as these companies built a unique community driven reward app, targeting gamers, and promoting games.
These players built their community by investing in their own product, and by running campaigns on Facebook and with other ad platforms.
A fraudster in 2024 knows that they cannot compete with Google, Facebook, Moloco, TikTok, and they would also know that building a business such as Mistplay, Applike, and EXMOX would take actual engineering investment, developing a community over time.
Rather than doing all this hard work of building an actual company, a recently found new fraudster went for the “easy money”, creating several “look alike” companies – meaning – buy a cheap app, pitch Advertisers that they have a “real audience”, pitch and guarantee “performance”.
But behind the scenes – what this fraudster is doing is simply running fraudulent inventory, stealing credit from other ad platforms, and from organics, by defrauding both their community AND advertisers.
Advertisers believe that they are getting traffic from a rewarded app, who’s audience is in premium countries, but what they are actually getting is a bunch of VPN users simulating their country, attribution fraud, and $0 revenue gains.
Gaming the attribution system remains in the core of fraud, even now – which is how this fraudster managed to chart high in one of the leading attribution providers’ recent “benchmarks”.
The difference between the fraud era of 2017 to now in 2024 is that now, there’s a way to measure and see incremental value. Especially when there is NO VALUE.
Apply your logic. Please.
Until the ad platform is sued by some of the Advertisers it harmed (and those lawsuits are filed and go into the public domain), we cannot name this ad platform publicly, as this would put us at INCRMNTAL in risk of a defamation case.
Want to learn more about this topic? Worried that you may be a victim of fraud? Reach out to me at email@example.com and let's have a chat.
Maor is the CEO & Co-Founder at INCRMNTAL. With over 20 years of experience in the adtech and marketing technology space, Maor is well known as a thought leader in the areas of marketing measurement. Previously acting as Managing Director International at inneractive (acquired by Fyber), and as CEO at Applift (acquired by MGI/Verve Group)