Title Image

App install: Beware of the overly good advertising performances on Ad-Networks

App install: Beware of the overly good advertising performances on Ad-Networks

The use of Ad-Networks in performance-based acquisition is widespread and is of great interest in any strategy to win new mobile users.

  • Traffic purchase at a fixed Cost Per Install (CPI), which limits the risk of an explosion in acquisition costs. And when the acquisition costs are managed, the profitability is also controlled.
  • Ability to target users on applications different from social networks.
  • Diversification of sources avoiding to concentrate all investments on the same levers.

On the other hand, it is important to remember that a qualitative download has a cost. It is not possible to generate volume at a cost per installation of €0.50 (in countries such USA, UK, FR, DE, JP…) while assuring the maximum commitment within the application – except for hyper casual games. Let’s face it!


If you find that your service providers offer you this type of service, you should question it as these are probably incentivized downloads or fraud. And the latter has a direct impact on the performance of your campaigns. It is therefore crucial to better understand this ecosystem and, above all, to know how to protect yourself from it.


This article has been specially designed to help you unravel the true from the false in terms of fraud on Ad-Networks.



To begin with, it is important to define the existing types of fraud to better protect yourself against it.

The mobile acquisition market is still very fragmented. In addition to traditional social networks – such as Facebook, Twitter or other players like Google –, there are thousands of sources such as Ad-Networks (or advertising networks), display and video, on which it is possible to broadcast app install campaigns. These advertising networks work with application editors or mobile sites. A proliferation that prevents us from seeing clearly between those who respect or not the rules, which in a way facilitates fraud. Fraud is hence multifaceted.


Fakes installs

  • Bots: These are bots that generate fake installs, that is to say many fake clicks or fake application installs.
  • SDK spoofing: In this scenario the publisher (the one who displays the ad) manages to reproduce the behaviour of a real user to deceive the tracking SDK who will not detect the installation as fraudulent.


Installs Hijacking

  • Click Injection: After the user downloads the application, and just before they open the program for the first time, an advertising network simulates a false click to assign the download to itself when the user had downloaded the application naturally.
  • Click flooding: The mechanism is similar to the click injection, but it is more forced since the advertising network generates a lot of false clicks; it then takes on an installation made by the user, even though there has been no interaction with the advertising.


Non Compliant Traffic

  • Wrong Geos: publishers broadcast your ads outside your target country; for instance, if your application is only available in France, but downloads from another country are counted.
  • Incentivized Traffic: As a general rule, this type of installation is less expensive, because the user is paid to download an application; if it is sold at the price of a qualitative installation, while the user is paid to download the application, then it is considered a fraud.



According to a report published by RSA, between 2015 and 2018, the number of fraudulent transactions on mobile applications increased by 600%.  A figure that makes you head spin. One may then wonder why the app install domain is so conducive to fraud. Indeed, what favours it?


First of all, the Ad-Networks market is more opaque than the others. Indeed, each network has its own inventory of sites and applications on which it publishes. It gives little or no visibility and mainly limited control over the distribution environment. For instance, it is difficult to know where the advertising will be distributed.


The market being very fragmented, the actors are led to collaborate with sources that work with publishers who themselves work with sub-publishers. It is therefore difficult to trace the very origin of the traffic.


In addition, the Ad-Networks are constantly renewing their inventory, so they can potentially integrate fraudulent partners.


These are all intermediate phases that can facilitate the introduction of a fraudulent actor in the loop.


Ad-Networks ecosystem

Ad-Networks ecosystem



Mobile advertising fraud is becoming more and more sophisticated and therefore difficult to detect. However, it is possible to protect yourself by keeping an eye out and using the most advanced technologies available.


If you notice that:

  • your performance is as good as traditional sources, your organic installations or even better than them (it is possible but this scenario should alert you);
  • your click amount is huge (for example, I target France and in one month I see 50 million clicks);
  • your click > install conversion rate is very low (for example, I have 100,000 clicks for 3 installations);
  • you have generated a download, but do not see any activity in the application (no open sessions or returning users);
  • your Ad-Networks partner never withdraws or talks about fraud…

… then, you should consider carrying out a full traffic diagnosis while setting up an anti-fraud kit.



First, it is vital to install a tracking tool (Adjust, Appsflyer, Branch, Kochava.) with the anti-fraud module activated. As the tool is connected to traffic sources, it is able to block installations that are considered fraudulent. The installation will not be charged (therefore not invoiced to the customer). Despite this system, some fraudulent installations fall through the cracks…


That is why at Addict Mobile, we analyze and investigate the quality of traffic already filtered by the SDK. This in-depth analysis work allows us to blacklist fraudulent publishers while deducting fraudulent installs from the final invoice.


We also conduct Ad-Networks traffic audits prior to a campaign. This allows us to identify installs that are not qualitative, remove them and collaborate with Ad-Networks known to address carefully the problem.


We made the early choice to develop effective fraud detection algorithms to ensure to our customers the highest performance and most optimized ROI. Depending on the project, our algorithm has enabled us to avoid between 10 and 40% of fraudulent installations.


We also devote significant attention to working only with trusted Ad-Networks that:

  • generate little or no fraud;
  • are proactive in this matter;
  • facilitate fraud refund processes.


Since there are many Ad-Networks on the market, it is important to find a partner of choice, such as Addict Mobile, who will make your job easier. Indeed, we have already managed UA for more than 350 applications worldwide: we therefore know each market player perfectly well, as well as the quality of their traffic or service.


We can only encourage you to work with a trusted partner who will be transparent on the subject. In a nutshell: you need to equip yourself with a robust fraud tracking tool while working with a partner who can verify that fraudulent installations are not billed to you.