Combating ad fraud is not a one-time process: MMA's Moneka Khurana

The ad fraud size in India is $1.63 billion.

MUMBAI: The increasing penetration of the internet with affordable data prices and low cost of mobile devices has led to people getting accustomed to a world embedded in chips below a 5-inch screen. This has also led to a boom in mobile marketing by brands, with India being a key market. But like every boon, this thriving atmosphere comes with its own set of challenges; ad-fraud being one of the biggest issues that brands and marketers are facing today.

Speaking with, at the culminating event of the first-ever ad fraud roadshow series in India by Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), MMA India country head Moneka Khurana shed some light on this menace and how it can be tackled.

“The mobile marketing landscape in India is quite interesting right now. A lot of new internet users have bypassed desktop completely and are experiencing internet through mobile phones. Mobile marketing is already taking away 40-45 per cent of digital spends and is slated to grow further organically with better form factors being available, cheap data prices, and with 5G already underway,” Khurana said.

According to her the ad fraud size in India is $1.63 billion currently and it forms 9 per cent of the global issues. The most affected segments are e-commerce, finance and health.

“Today, ad fraud is no longer a problem which a CMO or the chief digital officer has to tackle. It is the problem of every C-level executive in any organisation as it impacts the overall safety of the brand,” she mentioned.

However, she said that experts and bodies like MMA are working hard to find proactive methods to keep it at bay.

The ad fraud roadshow series was one such initiative by MMA aiming to educate the industry about the menace. “One of the top two challenges that the marketers face today in their journey of mobile marketing is of brand safety and ad fraud. We (MMA) figured that despite being a burning issue, ad fraud is not being addressed at an industry level. So MMA as the global authority on mobile chose to take up the charter and help the industry in addressing these problems by educating them in how to assess, track, and combat ad fraud at various stages of marketing,” she revealed.

The roadshow series originated from Delhi, followed by Bangalore, and finally culminated in Mumbai, with a number of experts and industry veterans participating. Khurana clarified that the objective of the series was not just educating the industry but going beyond that. Thus, the events merged into the launch of an ad fraud council, which will represent the Indian industry.

“The council will comprise practitioners and key stakeholders who, together with MMA, will create best practices, standards, and guidelines on ad fraud. We will give them a guide book with inputs on guidelines and best practices towards what standards they should adhere to,” she elaborated.

Khurana also mentioned that the MMA in India has a very engaged board led by Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) executive director (home care) Priya Nair and GroupM CEO Sam Singh. The board has three task forces under it: measurement, creative, and brand safety, looking after the various aspects of mobile marketing.

“Ad fraud falls under the brand safety charter led by the brand safety council. BARC, Diageo, and Google are the three board companies backing the safety council and they will also help the ad fraud council,” she explained.

Khurana believes that combating ad fraud is not a one-time process but an evolving exercise and so brands need to be very involved. She said, “It is an ongoing process in which you have to invent measures depending on the type of problem or the sort of issues that need to be addressed. Therefore, brands should be better involved in the process—taking help from experts, working on their own internal policies and hiring third-party solutions. The aim should be to deter ad fraud even before it begins to happen. But in a situation where they have already become a victim, no matter what stage of progression it is on, they should be able to combat it.”

For the agencies, she feels that it is a great time to clean up the ecosystem and venture into greater transparency. She stated that the agencies should work closely with experts and third-party solutions towards blacklisting fraudsters.

Khurana concluded the discussion by stating that whilst digital is growing it is bound to face some of these challenges. “This is the darker side of digital but as long as we are aware and we are up to speed with the right pace to keep it in check, it should come in the way of leveraging the medium and scale.”

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