It may sound like something straight out of Breaking Bad, but Methbots aren’t cooking up blue-tinted methamphetamine, they’re fraudulently siphoning millions and perhaps billions of dollars in ad revenue every year by pretending to watch videos on mobile ads. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
According to Jonathan Zweig, previously founder of AdColony and now CEO of the newly launched AppOnBoard, of the $50 billion earned last year in the App Store, $12 billion went back into user acquisition. Of that, he said, it’s estimated that 10–40 percent of that, (that’s anywhere from $1.2–4.8 billion was earned fraudulently, including through the use of technology like Methbots, and even ultra low-tech methods like endlessly clicking without watching.
If no one is seeing your ad but still able to reap the benefits, what’s the point of all the money you spent on the campaign? Companies are starting to catch onto this kind of fraud and looking to head it off at the pass. This means evolving in-app advertising itself to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.
At a recent event hosted by TMGA, Zweig introduced the audience to two just-launched solutions he called “the future of advertising” which are designed specifically to combat such fraud.
The first is High Fidelity App Demos, playable games that require the viewer to complete a certain in-game task to advance beyond the ad. The examples Zweig showed included a baseball game and a Candy Crush-esque mini-game, both of which require precise touches or motions to complete.
“So now instead of what kids do today, put their device on the dinner table and talk to their parents while clicking to earn videos for virtual currency they’re actually required to play the ad itself to earn the currency,” he said.
The second method Zweig introduced is Chronological Heat Maps, a patent-pending technology he said: “validates every human being that interacts with these high-definition demos so the advertiser can have 100 percent confidence that a human being actually interacted with it.”
If these technologies take off the way Zweig said they will, the brigands, grifters, and scofflaws out there are going to have to go back to the drawing board to cook up something new to outsmart the marketers and developers. And thus, the great ping-pong match goes on.