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  • Maggie Solé

What the Ancient Greeks can teach us on ad fraud?


Mobile Ad Fraud is a big and known issue and it seems that it won’t be solved any time soon. Studies forecasted that this year, 42 billion dollars are going to be spent on digital fraudulent activities. It’s a very lucrative market, and that’s why fraudsters are always developing new exploits and types of scams, so they can take a bigger cut from digital budgets. By 2020, the spent on Ad Fraud should surpass the mark of 100 billion dollars and it looks that it won’t stop rising!

But what do the Greeks have to do with this whole app fraud mess and how can they help?

A few months ago, I recall reading an article using Plato’s Allegory of the cave, an old greek myth, to explain how this whole fraudster business works and how it is damaging the whole mobile ad industry.



Basically, in the allegory of Plato, prisoners are chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the cave’s wall. Behind them, there is a big bonfire. Between the fire and the prisoners, there is a parapet that the puppeteers use to cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. So what the prisoners see and hear are just shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. 


It’s a very clear metaphor, to show how Advertisers sometimes are the prisoners in their own cave. They see the shadows (fraud) as if they were real users, those shadows (fake users) are made by the fraudsters, the Puppeteers. 

Interesting how this metaphor paints the whole digital mobile ad fraud environment, right? Actually, it doesn’t.


We have to stop thinking that Advertisers are prisoners and that they can not see the real world. The industry produces tons of educational articles, webinars and content around ad fraud or as an Advertiser can even ask your MMP for customized training on it. All you need is to be curious to break the chain. If you can’t do that by yourself, ask around. I’m pretty sure your mobile colleagues will be glad to give you tips and recommend serious partners that will help you do so. Even I would be more than happy to help you.

Fraud evolves, but so do we. 

If reducing fraud is just a matter of knowledge, why Advertisers still run with companies that have a long past of digital fraud? 


The greeks once again can help us with that answer, more specifically Oedipus Rex.



At the beginning of the myth of Oedipus, he gets to know his fate because he visited an Oracle. The oracle foretold him that he was going to marry his mother and kill his own father. As the myth goes by he tries to deny and avoid his fate, but those events indeed turn out happening, without him realizing. As the story advances, he starts getting clues and pieces of evidence that the Oracle was indeed right, but he kept denying it. So, every time he faced the truth, he denied it, until it becomes unsustainable. He knew all along that something might be wrong and that the Oracle could be right, but he wanted to be blind to the facts.

 

The same happens with a few Advertisers. They need to grow fast and achieve the ambitious goals established by their companies, so they prefer to look the other way and avoid facing the naked truth, that they are buying fraud. This happens more often than we imagine. The reasoning of this type of Advertiser is: “Why bother looking on my users/traffic if I'm delivering huge "growth" at a very low cost to my boss.”. 

The only way Advertisers can combat fraud is by working on their knowledge. 

Without knowledge, there is a great possibility that they might be in one of the myths above. They can be a prisoner on Plato's Cave, systematically been tricked by fraudsters or shady partners. Or they might be Oedipus, avoiding connecting the dots because the truth might be painful.


I leave you with a question: are you really managing your mobile campaigns as they should be or are you just stuck on a greek myth?

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