Mobile marketing fraud is a major problem, and if we need to start demanding transparency if it is to be beaten.

In a recent S4M study completed across a sample of 1 billion mobile ad impressions spanning 30 different advertising campaigns, we uncovered that a staggering $10 billion is lost in the mobile advertising ecosystem due to a lack of transparency in the market.

What does this mean for businesses trying to advertise to prospective customers via their mobile devices? It could mean one of four things (spoiler alert - none of them bode well for the advertiser):

Targeting: just how good are the quality of the advertisements? Are they they being delivered in the right format to the right device (and how do you ensure that?)

Viewability: Is the customer or prospective customer actually seeing your creatively designed ad? Are your ads fully loaded when your customers see them or do they close them before they've fully loaded?

Brand safety: Are your potential customers irritated because your ads are irrelevant? Are your ads harming your brand equity by appearing in totally inappropriate contexts?

In our study the ad units analysed were separated into two formats, HTML 5 and static. HTML 5 formatted ads are often employed in branding campaigns as they offer greater scope for visual creativity, while ads in static formats are for performance-based campaigns. The study found viewability issues in nearly 20% of ads in HTML 5 format, which were not seen or closed before being displayed (hence your customer didn't see or engage with the ad).

However for ads in static formats, the study showed a major brand safety issue with almost 40% of ads appearing in unfavourable contexts. This means that nearly half of all mobile ads in static formats are being shown in inappropriate settings.

That's not just inaccurate, that's damaging your brand and annoying potential customers. Whether it’s the time, context or message are wrong, rather than endearing yourself to your prospects you've just turned them off in that crucial "first impressions last" moment. It's a bit like dating. Hit it off right from the start and you're off on good ground. Make a wrong impression at kick off and it's much harder to get that person back on board.

In terms of device-targeting, both ad formats suffered an 8% loss due to wrong display environments, meaning the ad could not be properly played.

An example: a fast food chain spends a significant budget on creating a great video ad for mobile. They do a version for iPhone users and a version for Android users. They have big expectations. The research has been done. The profiling is spot on. But iOS ads get served to Android devices and vice versa. As a result, the campaign falls flat and money is wasted.

To tackle the mobile ad transparency problem, which accounts for a massive 30% loss in the mobile ad market currently valued at over $100 billion, we would encourage any business to make sure that the agencies or partners they work with are delivering their mobile ad campaigns with clear metrics and full transparency.

One solution that we've created is a mobile AdVerification Score, allowing advertisers to see a simple mark out of 1000 for each ad served and enabling them to assess impact and success immediately. We're sure this will raise the level of accountability and make the mobile space a safer place for brand advertisers.

You should be looking at three major criteria to evaluate each mobile ad:

Brand safety: make sure the referrer platform excludes incentivised, unwanted and bot-originated traffic from media campaigns.

Device-targeting: verify that ads are displayed on the corresponding devices.

Viewability: the standard we use in house is that an ad is only considered fully seen when it's 100% loaded plus one second.

Being able to evaluate the genuine delivery of each ad impression and clarify the reasons behind lost ad spend within digital mobile campaigns are the only ways you can improve and continue to optimise your ad spending. Our Adverification Score is now a fixed-feature on the S4M platform, allowing brands to see each score in real-time.

Brands can now strive for a higher standard in the mobile ad ecosystem where every single dollar spent on ad purchase sees a genuine return. By introducing metrics we are propelling the mobile ad sector forward based on strong foundations of transparency throughout the ecosystem as a whole.

Our message to businesses: Don't be kept in the dark, and stop running poorly performing mobile ad campaigns. Not only will you damage your brand, lose customers and in the worst case really annoy people but you'll also throw a lot of money away while you're at it.


By Frederic Joseph, COO, S4M

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