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Android devices hit hard by mobile in-app ad fraud in Q2 2018

The Android operating system powers over three-fourths of the world’s mobile devices — a startling number when considering the fact that Android devices are particularly prone to in-app ad fraud.

  • The ‘Games’ category has a display IVT rate of 22% on Android smartphones
  • The ‘Tools’ category has a video IVT rate of 35% on Android smartphones
  • On Android tablets, over half (58%) of display ads in the 'Entertainment' category are invalid

In this post, Pixalate dives into invalid traffic (“IVT”) rates across popular Android app categories. You can download the full Q2 2018 Programmatic Quality Report here.

 

Here are the latest Android in-app ad fraud trends, including a breakdown of what it means for marketers.

Gaming apps have a 22% ad fraud rate for Android display

On Android smartphones, apps in the ‘Games’ category had a display IVT rate of 22.1% in the time period we examined.

The chart below shows the IVT rates for the five most popular Android smartphone app categories in terms of programmatic display advertising.

 
  • Majority of in-app display ads on Android smartphones are going to the riskiest category
    • ‘Games’ had the highest programmatic ad share of voice (SOV), at 25%, and it had the highest IVT rate, at 22.1%.
  • Fraudsters are following the money
    • The ‘Tools’ category ranked second in SOV (17%) and second in IVT rate (16.7%). Similarly, the ‘Social’ category ranked third in ad volume and IVT rate, ‘Entertainment' was fourth in both categories, and ‘Productivity’ was fifth in both categories.

‘Tools’ category is hit hardest by video ad fraud on Android phones

Over one-third (34.6%) of programmatic video ads served to apps in the ’Tools’ category on Android smartphones were invalid in the time period we studied.

The chart below shows the IVT rates for the five most popular Android smartphone app categories in terms of programmatic video advertising.

 
  • ‘Entertainment’ category hit twice as hard by video ad fraud
    • For display advertising within Android smartphone apps, the IVT rate in the 'Entertainment' app category was 11% in the time period we studied. However, for video advertising, the IVT rate was twice as high, at 22.2%.
  • ‘Music & Audio’ has third-highest IVT rate
    • The 'Music & Audio' category had the second-most programmatic video ad volume and the third-highest IVT rate (16.5%).

‘Entertainment’ app category has over 58% display ad fraud rate on Android tablets

Fraudsters have found great success in stealing in-app display ad dollars on Android tablets — particularly in the ‘Entertainment’ category, which had an IVT rate of 58.2% in the time period we examined.

The chart below shows the IVT rates for the five most popular Android tablet app categories in terms of programmatic display advertising.

 
  • ‘Games’ category has high IVT rate and sees the most ad volume
    • The ‘Games’ category has the second-highest IVT rate (41.8%) and sees by far the most display ad volume within Android tablet apps, at 62.5% ad SOV. This is a disastrous combination for ill-prepared marketers.
  • ‘Music & Audio’ has 31% ad fraud rate
    • Android tablet display advertising is the riskiest environment for the ‘Music & Audio’ app category. For comparison, the category's IVT rate in this environment (31.5%) is nearly twice as high as it was for Android smartphone video advertising (16.5%).

In-app video on Android tablets: ‘Tools’ category has nearly 50% ad fraud rate

The ‘Tools’ category is one of the most susceptible to ad fraud across all Android devices. It has a nearly 50% IVT rate for video advertising on Android tablets.

The chart below shows the IVT rates for the five most popular Android tablet app categories in terms of programmatic video advertising.

 
  • ‘Tools’ category nearly twice as risky for video on Android tablets.
    • The 'Tools’ category has a video IVT rate of 48.1% on Android tablets, which is nearly twice as high as the category’s display IVT rate (26.5%).
  • ‘Entertainment’ is risky across the board on Android tablets.
    • The ‘Entertainment’ category has the second-highest video IVT rate on Android tablets (37.2%). It is one of the two riskiest categories on Android tablets for both display and video advertising.

Recommendations for marketers

Below are a few ways in which marketers can put this data to use:

  • Don’t take download and reach numbers at face value. Some of the most voluminous Android app categories in terms of advertising have extremely high IVT rates, ranging from 25% up to nearly 60%. Download and reach numbers are exploited by fraudsters and are used to mislead buyers into including the app in their media buys.
  • Vet the apps by screening the sellers. Marketers can use Pixalate’s Mobile Seller Trust Index (MSTI) to see how leading mobile in-app programmatic sellers rank across a variety of key categories, including IVT, transparency, location score, and more. The MSTI is free to download and contains detailed ratings and rankings for mobile in-app programmatic sellers.
  • Recognize the difference between display and video IVT rates within the same category. Certain Android app categories are more susceptible to video ad fraud than they are to display ad fraud. For example, on Android smartphones, the ‘Entertainment’ category (11% display; 22% video) and the ‘Tools’ category (17% display; 35% video) have a 2x higher ad fraud rate for video compared to display. Marketers should be aware of these trends and should allocate ad spend accordingly.

Methodology

Pixalate analyzed billions of programmatic advertising impressions throughout April 2018 to compile the research contained herein. Pixalate utilized its proprietary algorithms to measure invalid traffic (“IVT”) levels across mobile devices — within mobile applications — for both display and video advertising. This data represents the North American programmatic marketplace. Geography is based on the User Pool (IP) and not the region of the domain. For IVT calculations, categories of mobile applications that had less than 1,000,000 impressions were removed. The ad Share of Voice (“SOV”) is based on all categories. App categories are based on categorizations as given by the official Google Play Store. Only apps from the official Google Play Store are included in these calculations.

About Pixalate

Pixalate is a cross-channel fraud intelligence company that works with brands and platforms to prevent invalid traffic and improve ad inventory quality.

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