A Pain In The Ass Reason Mobile Ad Networks Have Click Discrepancies

Over the last year, if you are at all familiar with me, then you know I’m a managing partner of the IMGrind Forums (Huge Mobile Marketing Training Section), the Revived Media Mobile CPA Network and of course here at iMobiTrax, our Mobile Tracker. What you may not know about is the millions of dollars we’ve spent over the last 18 months in mobile advertising. We’ve worked with nearly 50 Mobile Ad Networks, DSP’s, Exchanges and even Proprietary platforms and have almost worked ourselves to the bone on learning the ins and outs of every platform.

Also, we’ve been working on our own mobile ad serving platform as well to go along with the mobile education & training, mobile offers/campaigns and mobile tracking solutions we’ve provided brought to all respective Industries.

So today, I decided to dig down and show you something that is likely going to save you some money if you are running mobile ads on mobile ad networks. Pay close attention.

This stuff isn’t something Einstein had to figure out. It just took me a lot of hours, research and grunt work to get everything lined up all nice and neat to present to you.

Now, I’m not going to finger point at any one specific mobile ad network, because honestly, this is a very tough aspect on the backend of mobile ad servers and distribution to combat and keep up with. Besides, there are too many networks to point at and not enough fingers. :-)

It’s called IP Tagging.

It’s been around for a long time in web-based ad serving and tracking but with mobile advertising literally blowing up over the last year, everyone has jumped on the bandwagon of hype and not researched the ins and outs of mobile ad servers. So, I guess I’ll do it for you.

IP tagging has been around for a long time. VSI Alliance was one of the first standards organizations that looked at IP tagging. It started out as the Virtual Socket Interface Alliance. They had a number of initiatives they were addressing. One was the on-chip bus specification. They also did the quality IP specification, they started the encryption standard, looked at IP transfer, defined the list for standard deliverables. The goal was to facilitate IP re-use between design groups, between companies and between vendors and customers. Tagging was one of those efforts, and it really was intended to provide some security around IP.

Now the backend of mobile ad networks aren’t rocket science, but they are science.

First off – Most mobile ad networks (unless they are proprietary and build their own) are using a simple 3rd Party IP Intelligence and  ISP Database Service. Popular ones include:

To give you an example, Maxmind offers databases like this:

  • Country – maps the IP address to a country
  • Region – maps the IP address to a specific state/province within a country
  • City – maps the IP address to a specific city within a country. In the US, we are able to map many IP addresses to specific postal codes. This database also contains latitude, longitude, and time zone data.
  • Organization – maps the IP address to the organization which was assigned the IP address’s netblock.
  • ISP – maps the IP address to the ISP which owns the IP, including wireless carriers.
  • Netspeed – maps the IP address a particular network speed.
  • Domain – maps the IP address to a domain (not a hostname).

With that said, some Mobile Ad Networks will have ties to companies whom are tied into Carriers/Operators who can provide Carrier/Operator specific IP Ranges. This isn’t uncommon. Advertisers and publishers who also record Carrier/Operator IP’s also report these to mobile ad networks as well. VOILA, now you have IP-based geolocation targeting. However, the main problem is that with the rapid adoption of smartphones, these smartphones connected to cellular networks are increasingly being used to access Internet-based services. Let’s toss in the fact that there are a lot of countries and Carriers/Operators throughout the world and all them do not operate alike.

Mobile Ad Networks have to constantly update their systems to stay up to date with all the IP’s. To give you a break-down of why, I’ll summarize in bullet-points:

  • In some cellular networks it’s common to find NAT “Network Address Translation”
  • Carriers/Operators can and do differ. Some of them assign public IP Addresses to some devices and private IP Addresses to other devices.
  • There is always room for errors when you are dealing with country and continent distances
  • Mobile Ad Networks using 3rd Party IP Intelligence and ISP Databases are at the mercy of their providers. How well the network performs on delivering accurate Carrier/Operator traffic is great relied upon how well their 3rd Party IP and ISP Databases provider handles their business.

Now even though 3rd Party IP Intelligence and ISP Database Providers have enormous lists of IP prefixes to location matches, you have to remember that there is still room for errors based on the facts of dynamic assignments of IP’s, IP Address blocks can and do become fragmented, and the use of “middle-boxes” make IP-based geolocation even tougher.

Now Mobile Ad Networks are in the business of selling ads. That’s their purpose. So you have to understand that it’s highly-likely they don’t pay much attention to the fact that a lot of 3rd Party IP Intelligence and ISP Database Providers might claim they have accuracy down to a certain level (such as country) when in fact, that company is actually working harder in some countries versus all countries.

The problem will continue to grow to. With the explosion of smartphones, IPv4 address space is becoming increasingly scarce. Do you know what this means? Basically, it means that mobile operators are going to be more likely to move towards NAT (Network Address Translation) solutions.

Now consider the fact that when a mobile ad network is using more than one source for their entire IP Carrier/Operators solutions, you will get over-lap and errors. Basically, if they are using Maxmind and receiving IP Data from certain Carriers/Operators, there’s a good chance that a percentage of IP’s (which will be clicking on your ads, these are users) will show up in the mobile ad network stats different than what they really are. Some mobile ad networks may have IP addresses in their system as Wi-Fi because that’s how they received the data but in actuality it’s a carrier/operator IP Address. This is what causes quite a few click discrepancies with mobile ad networks delivering mobile ads.

I know it’s probably a lot to take in, but there’s a lot to understand in what’s going on here. Basically, there is no system, no database, no solution and targeting technology in the world that is 100% accurate and it never will be. There are just too many things in technology, the world and universe that are constantly changing for any one thing to be absolute. However, hopefully this has shed some light specifically in how mobile ad networks have click discrepancies.

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