The holidays are a wonderful time of year. People’s minds are focused on family, food, and the warmth the season can bring. And what holiday season is complete without the elegant chaos ushered in by Black Friday? Brands from across the nation offer discounts and deals on practically everything – from electric toothbrushes to tickets to Knicks games to desktop lamps shaped like unicorns.
This year, Forbes reported that Thanksgiving Day brought in $3.7 billion in online sales, a growth of 28% over last year. Black Friday brought in $6.2 billion in online sales, 24% more than last year. As of 7 p.m. ET on Cyber Monday, Adobe was projecting $7.9 billion in Cyber Monday online sales, a 20% increase year-over-year. (). Americans are spending more online this year than ever before and, increasingly, consumers are shifting to mobile devices not only for research, but also to transact. With just a few clicks, you can have almost anything delivered directly to your doorstep. Some brands even offer the ability to shop online while browsing in their brick and mortar locations. The buying experience today no longer requires you to set foot in a store; your mobile device has brought the store to you.
With that background, the axiom “crime follows the money” has never been more true – especially when you have over $15 billion dollars exchanging hands in three days alone. In 2017, DoubleVerify saw a 159% increase in bot fraud on Cyber Monday, with retail advertisers targeted 4x more than other verticals. Fraudsters were not born yesterday; they know what time of year it is. Over the course of the past 12 months, DoubleVerify has seen an astonishing 800% increase in the amount of fraud that runs on mobile app environments. Fraudsters also know that the oversight on these placements has been limited, as verification vendors have sought to increase the sophistication and application of their solutions to the mobile app environment.
When you consider transaction volume, consumer bias toward mobile devices and the limits some vendors have in protecting against these newer forms of in-app fraud, you can’t help but conclude that this year will likely set records in terms of the amount of ad fraud perpetrated.
Interestingly, viewability is still often the primary or sole KPI used for mobile campaign optimization. This thinking needs to change, since marketers inadvertently can end up optimizing toward the very bots and sophisticated invalid traffic they’re trying to avoid. Once all of the fraud is removed from the impression pool, you can then optimize effectively. Now more than ever, marketers need to ensure they are protected. And they need to ensure that protection extends to the mobile environment, especially in-app.
With roughly 20 days left in the year, there are still billions of dollars up for grabs. Zuzu Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life said, “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” While that may or may not be true, I can say with certainty that every time a digital campaign is run, fraudsters will employ any scheme imaginable in an attempt to get paid.