Mobile app brand safety violations have grown by almost 200 per cent in the last year – as users’ content consumption patterns and corresponding ad budgets increasingly shift to mobile.

The data is contained in a new report from Double Verify which also reveals that the number of CTV and mobile apps identified as fraudulent has risen sharply – up 120 per cent. The report’s authors say this is a result of fraudsters increasingly target premium, high-growth environments such as these.

Ad fraud is an area of much contention. The industry, which largely has a strong vested interest in downplaying the problem says it is largely under control and costs advertisers less than $7B a year. Independent researchers, such as UK based Juniper say the problem is getting much worse and will cost brands more than $42B this year out of a total digital spend of $250B.

The reasons for the discrepancy appears to be that vendors in the industry only count the types of frauds they personally measure, or mitigate against in their numbers, or as eMarketer’s principal analyst Nicole Perrin put it in an article last week “Anyone who is detecting fraud is still only detecting the types of fraud that they’ve figured out how to detect.”

For its numbers, Juniper is making assumptions based on discussions with industry participants and from its analysis of advertising networks and fraud detection mitigation platforms, according to a statement it made to Which-50 last month.

Double Verify doesn’t provide a figure in its report, but its ad fraud rates per region which typically come in at between two and four per cent put it more in the typical vendor camp (as it reflects only the fraud it measures) than the Juniper camp.

The company’s 2019 Global Insights Report, meanwhile is designed to provide a market-by-market benchmark on the current and future state of media quality on the Internet.

Specifically, on ad fraud, the Double Verify report says, “The majority (54 per cent) of fraud we’re seeing in mobile apps is classified as App Fraud. App Fraud describes ad impression fraud or invalid traffic practices such as misrepresentation, laundering, and hidden ads. Notably, in the last 12 months, the number of CTV and mobile apps classified as fraudulent has more than doubled.

“We anticipate this figure will continue to rise, especially in CTV – as fraudsters target this premium, high-growth environment,” say the authors. They also note that bot fraud is more difficult to perpetrate in closed app environments, making it more likely to be found on desktop and CTV/OTT environments.

According to Wayne Gattinella, CEO of DoubleVerify, “Brand safety, fraud, and viewability continue to be top-of-mind for advertisers, and with good reason. Headlines buzz with stories about brands appearing beside fake or objectionable content, and emerging fraud schemes. The stakes are high as advertisers rightfully demand clarity and confidence into the quality and performance of their digital investment.”

Brand safety concerns

In the report, the authors say while fraud and viewability impact a brand’s checkbook, brand safety is corrosive to a brand’s equity,  ‘…with a lasting impact on consumer loyalty and likelihood to transact. This year, DV saw the brand safety incident rate rise slightly year-over-year (6.2 per cent in 2018 compared with 6.5 per cent in 2019). However, at a device level, we saw a whopping 194% increase in mobile app brand safety incidents recorded over the last 12 months.”

Given the divisive quality of political debate in markets like the US and the UK, the report also notes that 90 per cent of brands are actively avoiding inflammatory news and politics in their campaigns.

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