How Ad Fraud Prevention Minimized Risk & Improved ROAS by 160%

SmartNews, a popular news app founded in Tokyo, has surpassed 50 million downloads since its inception in 2012. In order to expand their brand awareness and acquire new users, they have implemented ad fraud countermeasures in parallel while scaling CPI network user acquisition campaigns. In this blog, we sat down with SmartNews’ Marketing Manager, Takashi Amitani, to talk about their specific initiatives.
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About 50% of installs acquired in CPI campaigns were found to be ad fraud, triggering the need for countermeasures.

Q. When and why did you feel the need to take ad fraud countermeasures?

When we implemented the new CPI campaigns in 2018, we experienced what appeared to be an influx of fraudulent installs that caused a sharp drop in recurring app usage after a certain number of days from when it was installed.

We’ve set up thresholds for ad fraud countermeasures with the ad agency, but analysis of our internal logs revealed that this was occurring for such a long period of time and that it couldn’t be tracked on the SDK’s admin dashboard. Ad fraud accounted for nearly half of the installs we’ve acquired through the CPI campaign which made us realize the need for additional ad fraud countermeasures.

Q. Ad fraud methods are evolving every day and are not as easy to spot with a single glance. What kind of ad fraud countermeasures have you implemented since then?

We stopped running CPI campaigns that could potentially be targeted by ad fraud during that time. There were cases where we used our partner companies’ brands to promote coupons. Looking from a brand safety perspective, we only distributed through whitelisted ad networks to prevent low-quality sources from joining.

Q. Did you face any challenges in narrowing down distribution channels?

As the number of users grew, we had to deal with our reach limit and the increased frequency of ad delivery to the same users, both of which were limited since we were only serving ads in specific media.

We used to target users with a strong interest in news, but we’ve expanded our target audience since we launched our coupon distributions.

There are a lot of people who are interested in information pushed out through social media ads, that’s why we wanted to test the possibilities in expanding our network and to reach the majority of those users.

During the free trial, the tool detected that approximately 90% of the installs in a new CPI campaign were ad fraud.

Q. We did a free one month trial prior to installing Spider AF, how did you like the results?

Since the tool’s integration coincided with the timing of our CPI campaign, we gave it a try with Spider AF. As a result, about 90% of the new acquisitions from the campaign were detected to be ad fraud.

At that point, we saw the tool’s cost effectiveness which led us to continue using it. An incredible amount of ad fraud was initially detected, but we steadily increased our reach as we managed distribution, and we’re now getting more than what we would have on a major ad platform.

We integrated Spider AF with the expectation that the clear ad fraud detection logic, easy-to-understand dashboard, and CTIT (Click to Install Time) data can be utilized for marketing activities as well.

(Demo screen of Spider AF dashboard: one glance ad fraud ratio)

Q. It would have been terrible if you didn’t take countermeasures right away knowing now that the majority of acquisitions were ad fraud. Were there any other reasons why you integrated Spider AF?

The support system includes direct contact with the ad agency’s representative. Since we couldn’t spend time on ad fraud countermeasures, Spider AF worked directly with the ad agency to provide us with full support, which was very convenient.

Ad fraud countermeasures in only 10 minutes per month

Q. Please tell us more about how your ad agency is using this service.

We ask our agency representatives to check directly with Spider Labs, so it saves us a lot of time and effort. We regularly check ad fraud and negotiate with them to exclude target media and billing. While we leave it to them, we also check the dashboard to see what seems important. In reality, it takes about 10 minutes a month just to look at the dashboard.I used to look at it frequently before, but much less now since the delivery has become cleaner.

Q. You came from an advertising agency, so I think you understand both sides of the issue well. What do you think is the best way for an advertising agency and an advertiser to work together?

Operational Structure with Partners

We don’t evaluate results in terms of short-term CPA, but rather work with advertising agencies as partners who focus on medium to long term business growth.

Since we focus on the long term, we actively ask them to blacklist media, exclude fraud from billing and implement ad fraud measures.

It’s important to have objective metrics, and to have data that everyone agrees “This is ad fraud for everyone,” so you feel at ease and can take action right away.

Scaling CPI campaigns, cut costs and improved ROAS by 160%!

Q. You’re working with your partners to effectively combat ad fraud, but what has been the biggest impact on your business since you implemented Spider AF?

We are now able to scale up CPI campaigns. We were actually able to detect a lot of ad fraud and cut down on unnecessary costs so we could focus on delivering good quality ads.

Q. How is your performance and user quality after eliminating ad fraud?

We recalculated our CPA after eliminating fraudulent ads, then calculated our new CPA while adding in the tool’s cost, and we were able to acquire users more efficiently.

Compared to other media, our ROAS increased by 160%. Although the quality of the users are a little lower than users from social media advertising, we achieved an 85% retention rate after 30 days, so this is quite the performance.

Q. What is the key to preventing ad fraud?

Ad fraud is a game, so it’s important to tackle the issue continuously.

We have stopped the flow of rewards to fraud, and have been able to deter it. But if we don’t take measures against fraud, the damage will increase because the fraudsters will know that their methods work. Of course, the high accuracy of ad fraud detection, the lack of manpower, and the benefits that outweigh the cost are also important factors to consider.

It is also important to build an organizational structure that checks both online and offline metrics for ad fraud protection. If the organization has widely different people managing digital and offline activities, it’s possible that the person in charge of digital campaigns may try to hide cannibalization of organic traffic.

It’s important to design KPIs that look at the entire business, not just the organizational structure and the numbers on the surface. Lastly, what is the outlook for your business and services, including the use of Spider AF?

Implementing ad fraud countermeasures have shown a vital role in expanding our medium. We’ll try to improve our promotion’s efficiency through various means while taking ad fraud countermeasures.

Thank you very much!

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