How to Avoid Click Fraud in Mobile Marketing Campaigns

In the last column, we saw how targeting mobile Internet campaigns is vastly different from traditional (including Internet) media planning methodologies. This time we’ll discuss how to use intelligent mobile ad serving technology to manage and optimise campaign ROIs for brands.

Once we know where to reach the desired consumer, we will need to think about what to say and how to say it. There’s a lot of work involved in understanding consumer insights, understanding brand equity, and delivering the product benefits.

However, consumers always have their own opinions and we can only find out their attitudes to a campaign creative from the post report after the campaign is over. It is always good to know how consumers react to your advertising during the campaign, as it’s a bit too late if you can only analyse after. What would you say?

To avoid wasted budgets on creative that don’t work, “pay per click” might be an option. When placing mobile banners through a mobile ad network, advertisers might be allowed to develop a number of different ad creatives (i.e., different communication messages or artwork such as different focus on product benefits, etc.) and have each version rotated and evaluated on a real-time basis. The mobile ad serving system will then record each creative’s CTR and serve the best performing banner based on its priority level.

The brilliant part is if one week after a campaign starts and we know more consumers click a branding oriented banner rather than a pricing oriented banner, the advertiser can now add more branding related creatives to the rotation pool and enhance campaign effectiveness. This means brands can now react to the market in real time and manage CTR during the campaign period.

But the pay per click model has an important issue to overcome – click fraud. The Internet industry’s average click fraud rate rose to more than 22 percent during the third quarter of 2010, according to a recent report from Click Forensics.

Brands certainly don’t want this to happen on mobile. So before an advertiser considers performance-based mobile Internet campaigns, there are a few questions to ask the mobile publisher or ad network:

1. Will the ad serving platform block traffic from fixed Internet?

With browsers like Opera, users are able to access mobile sites through their computers as well. This provides click fraud a chance to cheat the system. The ideal situation would be that users don’t see mobile ads when they access the mobile site content from their computer using Opera or similar browsers.

2. Does the ad serving platform enable frequency caps?

Mobile frequency caps are not based on IP address or cookies (since many mobile devices do not support cookies). Instead, they are based on a unique ID transferred from a SIM card (which is similar to the Web metric for a unique visitor). This means if anyone wants to cheat, he would have to prepare a large quantity of SIM cards and change it in and out of different phones every time. In most cases, this is not a practical situation.

3. Is there a third-party tracking system available?

From ad serving tracking to mobile site traffic monitoring, this would provide reliable data to calculate and understand if CTRs are maintained at reasonable levels. Third-party tracking also helps to identify if the chosen media is effective or not.

One more tip on frequency caps for mobile. Unlike the Web, where frequency caps are used to avoid invalid traffic from automated cookies, it is more difficult to cheat on mobile Internet. Therefore, by placing frequency caps on impressions, clicks and downloads for each unique visitor, this can be a very useful tool to help advertisers maximise consumers within a fixed budget frame.

How does it work? For example, consumer A has seen campaign A’s banner for more than five times a day when he is browsing the mobile Web but he has never clicked. Consumer B on the other hand has clicked the same campaign ads three times already.

Should we continue to serve the same ad to them? The answer might be no. Because consumer A is obviously not interested in this campaign; and since consumer B already clicked the banner three times, it’s pretty safe to assume the message has been delivered.

With the frequency cap function, both consumers will not see this campaign within the same mobile ad network again. And the impression or click saved can be served to people who have not viewed this campaign yet. Now, how does that sound?

Today’s mobile marketing is not just about fancy creatives and applications. When it comes down to mobile media planning, it requires a lot of innovative yet basic serving technology to make it intelligent and improve ROI of every dollar invested.

So far, we have covered how to do targeting and how to serve ads effectively using new mobile ad serving technologies, which are the fundamentals of every mobile campaign.

In our next column, we will explore how to make a mobile campaign work through better interaction design and consumer experience on the mobile Internet.

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.