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Indian marketing industry not ready for multi-touch attribution

Adding performance layers can aggravate the issue of ad frauds

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MUMBAI: While multi-touch attribution (MTA) might be the need of the hour, given the ever-increasing size of the mobile marketing space, the industry is still not ready to work on the format as it might further aggravate the problem of ad fraud. The point was unanimously made by several speakers at the Mumbai edition of the first-ever Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Ad Fraud Road Show.

Sharing their thoughts on the topic ‘Mobile: The Next Frontier of Attribution for Marketers’, were mFilterIt CTO and founder Dhiraj Gupta, Mobivista country manager South Asia and MEA Neeraj Sharma, Sony Liv business head digital Uday Sodhi, and Nielsen South Asia director digital Vishal Kamath. The session was moderated by Edelweiss Financial Services senior vice president marketing Rahul Sethi.

Sodhi mentioned that MTA is work in progress and there is no established infrastructure to ensure that each touchpoint of the client data is being counted before attributing it to the final purchase. However, he also pressed upon the need to incentivise everybody involved in the value chain, and steps towards implementing MTA should be encouraged.

Gupta stressed that while MTA makes great sense to the industry as it gives the right value to all the publishers, the problem with this arises when ad fraud becomes a part of the mix. He said, “From a logical perspective, MTA makes a lot of sense because it is important to give the right value to all the publishers. There are certain publishers who are converting the upper funnel consumers to lower funnel, and they need to be rewarded. But the problem, however, comes when you add ad fraud to it. If you start adding up more clickable options in the background, for example, it is very easy to get those fraudulent clicks. Even I can get up in the morning and click. I will also make a lot of money with it, even though I did not have any contribution in final conversion.”

He also insisted that instead of a performance-based system, an impression-based format should be introduced.

Sharma, adding to what Gupta shared, attributed that the industry needs to understand the complexities that are there in the implementation of MTA. He noted, “If we compare mobile with desktop, as a platform, you have keys to understand the user journey in the latter. But when it comes to mobile, from a performance perspective, you have only the ‘click’ that is happening. Now, if it is an app, you can track if a person is active or not, post that click. But in between these, as a publisher or an enabler, if we get the data that is being passed on in terms of search or in-app activities, that should also be considered.”

Sharma raised the need for providing real-time data to the enablers as even a delay of a few hours gives the fraudsters a chance to manipulate it. He shared that such data is capable of catching if fraud is happening at a very early stage. “We need to know whether this user is a general active user or not because there are certain elements who keep on doing N number of things just to get that transaction. But we need to analyse whether a consumer has actually searched for the product or not.”

Kamath also reflected similar thoughts as he mentioned that mobile is a fairly complicated medium and the lack of data makes it difficult for the enablers and agencies to identify ad fraud as the advertisers are hesitant in sharing the relevant data.

He said, “The real-time data becomes useful when an advertiser is facing ad fraud from a certain publisher. They can then identify it an earlier stage and pull the plug. They can decide to if they wish to put that money in some other platform.”

Another issue raised at the forum was of the chances of a spike in ad frauds with the introduction of multiple performance layers, that will come if MTA is implemented by advertisers.

Gupta stated that while adding such layers might get rid of the basic fraud elements like bots, it can raise issues like organic theft. He shared, “I think performance layers will remove some fraud. But in the real world, even a sale or purchase can be fraudulent. Advertisers are now sharing a lot of their consumer data in the hope of combating ad fraud but they don’t understand that this data if put in open can be used by their competitors to make ads. Protection of data, thus, is more important.”

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