Rise and fall of Incent ad networks : Rise of Digital Ad Fraud (3 of 7)

Google SEO ranking algorithms evolved significantly over the 2000s and 2010s. As and when a new loopholes surfaced and Google figured out how it has been exploited by the web developers new checks and rules were reintroduced to penalize the exploiters.

Rise and fall of Incent ad network

Unlike SEO ranking, playstore/app store daily top app rank algorithm gives higher weightage to app install velocity. It forced app developers to promote app installs quantity over the quality installs. Even though other factors like app usage, DAU, MAU, rating, etc. were considered, it was minuscule. This reason accelerated the demand for App install campaigns among the app developers and app marketers.

As the demand for app install campaigns increased to get visibility in playstore/app store, the number of blind ad networks proliferated in the market. They positioned themselves as the proper solution for high volume app install campaign. They give a unique advantage for app marketer as their price stays consistent (at least in papers) even at the high install quantity(CPI).  Even though they don’t share information on ad placements, marketers hardly worried as they were getting installs anyway.

Another type for networks that gained high traction but faded out currently is Incent ad networks. They incentive customers with digital wallet money or currencies in gaming apps which will help players advancing to next levels.

The earlier type of incent networks providing digital wallet money was very prevalent in developing countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia especially. By concept, incent networks acted as a platform for an app developer to showcase their feature to the perspective customers. By doing so, they also garnered some install velocity in the app store/playstore to top the rank table. They certainly proved value when used in smaller proportions. But too much of anything indeed is a recipe for disaster.

As the demand for cheap installs increased, coupled with zero entry barrier and easy re-brokering of ad inventory, many players entered the market claiming to be one of the largest players. This propelled price-war, and fraudulent practice flourished in order to compensate the price reduction due to competition.

Networks when faced high demand from the advertisers approached all type of publishers who can provide installs at lower CPI. Many fraudulent publishers managed a large array of devices both physical, as well as virtual and started producing events who look like an app install in the eyes of attribution platform. Nonetheless, this mechanism of generating fraud installs had many flaws.

Nonetheless, this mechanism of generating fraud installs had many flaws.

  • Firstly the post install events/engagements for these installs would be next to nothing
  • Secondly, their potential to give indefinite volume infuses suspicion in marketer’s mind as these numbers won’t reflect in the Playstore or Appstore.
  • Lastly having a close look at the install postback parameters like IP address, IMEI ID(if shared), telecom service provider name, device model/make, etc. could reveal visible patterns

Even though it took some time for the advertiser to catch these points eventually the inevitable happened and the glory of intent Ad started fading. By the end of 2016, mostly all sane app promoters stopped using Incent Ad networks. Due to the massive drop in demand, many incent only networks closed down during this period, and others scaled down or stopped their incent activities

Even today few networks sell this incent installs as the rank booster solution even after Google has officially announced against it. It is the high time all the digital marketers be told the truth.


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