Mobile and connected-TV apps hit by growing fraud and brand-safety violations

Mobile app brand-safety violations increased by 194% over the past year, while the number of fraudulent connected-TV and mobile apps has more than doubled.

In the EMEA region the UK has the highest rate of ad fraud
In the EMEA region the UK has the highest rate of ad fraud

Mobile apps have become a breeding ground for fraud and brand-safety violations, while connected TV apps are increasingly being targeted by fraudsters looking to exploit premium, high-growth environments, according to DoubleVerify’s 2019 Global Insights Report.

The verification company has recorded an astonishing 194% increase in mobile app brand-safety violations over the past year – demonstrating the growth of mobile app as an advertising medium, but also its vulnerability.

Furthermore, while desktop fraud rates reported to DoubleVerify fell by 7% over the last year, mobile app fraud grew by 6%.


The majority (54%) of fraud taking place in mobile apps is classified as ‘app fraud’, which describes ad impression fraud or invalid traffic practices such as misrepresentation, laundering and hidden ads.

In addition, the number of connected-TV and mobile apps identified as fraudulent has risen sharply – up 120%, as fraudsters increasingly target premium CPMs.

DoubleVerify said bot fraud was more prevalent on desktop and CTV/OTT, since it is more difficult to perpetrate in closed app environments.

The rise in fraudulent activity demonstrates the "imperative" need for comprehensive, independent media authentication on CTV, the company said.

One area in which mobile apps outshone other formats was viewability, where display and video viewability exceeded 70%, compared with mobile web’s 56% for both formats, and desktop’s 56% for display and 64% for video.

Overall display viewability stands at 58% with video viewability measured at 62%, up from 55% and 59% last year, but this still falls short of both IAB standards and advertisers’ growing demand for 100% viewability.

Brands are, unsurprisingly, avoiding fake news and political content

Elsewhere, the company also found that more than 90% of its clients are actively seeking to avoid fake news and provocative political content in their advertising campaigns, by activating DoubleVerify’s ‘Inflammatory News and Politics’ controls.

With landmark political events coming up including the 2020 US election, the UK’s official exit from the EU and the potential for an early general election, it anticipates this trend will continue.

UK has highest ad fraud rate in EMEA

In the EMEA region the UK has the highest rate of ad fraud (2.4%), but this is lower than comparably advanced digital markets in the world like the US (3.4%), India (2.8%) and Brazil (2.7%). 

There was also a 17% increase in brand-safety incident reports in EMEA in 2019 compared with the previous year, which is significantly less of a rise than other markets (77% in North America, 68% in Latin America, and 55% in Asia-Pacific).

Entertainment most open to brand-safety incidents

On an industry level, brand-safety incidents were highest in the entertainment category (11%), followed closely by travel (10.3%).

DoubleVerify said this was primarily because these brands have bursts of high volume, and run many custom and takeover buys without extended time to optimise campaigns. 

Travel clients are also especially sensitive to both natural and human-made disaster news, further increasing the likelihood of avoidance.

Fraud was highest in the media (4.3%), travel (4.3%), finance (4.1%), pharmaceuticals (3.7%) and auto (3.6%) verticals.

Consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical campaigns had the highest viewability figures, which DoubleVerify attributes to the fact they are "more branding oriented", while telecommunications and financial services had the lowest.

"Their campaigns are typically more direct-response focused – meaning they’re less likely to be concerned with overall viewability as a measure of success," the company said.

The report provides a market-by-market analysis of DoubleVerify impressions measured during the period of May 2018-April 2019, for display and video ads placed on desktop, mobile devices and CTV. The report covers more than 1,000 brands across 75 countries.

Commenting on the results, DoubleVerify chief executive Wayne Gattinella said: "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."

A version of this story was first published by Campaign Asia-Pacific

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