Anuj Khanna talking about how Affle is addressing Ad Fraud to Vulcan Post (Singapore-based portal)

View Online Article

According to Statista, US$534.8 billion was spent globally on advertising in 2017, and this figure is projected to rise to US$557.99 billion this year.

While that’s definitely great news for creative agencies, it doesn’t mean that businesses are experiencing stellar ROI.

Think about it as a consumer – out of all the ads that you’ve been served, how many have successfully convinced you to make a purchase?

But perhaps one of the bigger problems is the rise of ad fraud bots.

Just last November, Denmark-based ad-tech firm Adform discovered that “a large and sophisticated” ad fraud operation was used to scam advertisers and publishers “out of upward of hundreds of thousands of dollars a day”.

Named “Hyphbot”, it was reported to have created “more than 34,000 different domain names and more than a million different URLs” to fool advertisers into thinking they were buying ad inventory from publishers like The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN.

In fact, a report estimates that advertisers will lose a whopping US$19 billion as a result of ad fraud in 2018.

Thus, the general advice is for businesses to look out for “trusted, transparent third parties and publishers” – exactly where Affle, a global tech company that has established its mark with diversified range of solutions backed with consumer intelligence, wants to come in.

Affle is a global tech company with proprietary consumer intelligence platform that delivers consumer acquisitions, engagements, and transactions through relevant mobile advertising to enhance ROI.

Explained Anuj Khanna Sohum, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Affle, “We are a consumer-driven tech company that help businesses derive greater ROI for their marketing budgets/ We have built consumer intelligence with our 1.18 billion consumer profiles as of March 31, 2018.”

“With our data intelligence and machine learning infrastructure, we assist businesses in reaching out to the end user with our customized solutions,” he added.

Noticing the glaring gaps in the industry, Anuj started Affle (Affle Global Pte. Ltd.) in 2005 in Singapore.

Today, it has consumer profiles across Southeast Asia, MENA, North America, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Australia with its international headquarters based in Singapore.

Its registered and corporate office is in India, which is also the largest market for the company.

I dropped by Affle’s office in Singapore for a quick chat with Anuj, and found out more about how this 13-year-old organisation won over well-known clients and notable investors by making a difference in the ad-tech space.

The Fight Against Ad Fraud

As a means to protect its customers from ad fraud, Affle launched its Fraud Analytics as a Service Platform (“mFaaS”) last October.

Operating during run time and not just post-mortem, mFaaS utilises two primary interventions as part of its detection technology – device-based detections and server-side detections.

The platform, mFaaS detects and flags potentially fraudulent conversions and transactions on 15+ reason codes, which include click spamming, conversion hijacking, app version frauds, BOT/simulator activity, and many internet protocol (IP)-related fraud types.

Shared Anuj during the launch, “We believe that the timing of this launch is also very pertinent as we are seeing significant growth in ad fraud leading to ROI erosion for businesses.”

Affle already has three registered patents in the United States in areas of consumer acceptable advertising via data communication clients, online search system, method and computer program and system for extending the use and/or application of messaging systems.

Seven patent applications have also been filed in India, covering various algorithms in the areas of blockchain, audience intelligence, and fraud detection methods.

Affle’s mFaaS was recognised for its innovation, and received the “Big Data Technology Platform of the Year” award in 2017 at the IAMAI India Digital Awards.

Ads Can Be A Win-Win For Businesses And Consumers

Making sure that the most relevant ads get served to the most relevant consumers is another aspect Affle takes very seriously.

As mentioned above, they have profiled over 1.18 billion users on their preferences with over 140 billion data points over the preceding 12 months.

Assured Anuj, “When we say profiled, it means that we have some idea of what the user might be interested in!”

What they do have, though, is a level of understanding how a user interacted with a recently-served ad.

“From those inferences, we can optimise what is served to you the next time.”

Affle also has strong niche in creating ads that consumers would find value in, and Anuj shared with me an example of a gamified ad they created for a Hollywood movie.

Explained Anuj, “We took the movie trailer, and whenever you see a superhero, you click on it.”

“It then captures the superhero’s photo, [and if] couldn’t find all of them, you’d want to watch it again and again!’”

“It’s not just an ad, it’s about how you add value for the consumer.”

It is a win-win proposition today, where consumers are constantly looking for relevant content related to their interests, and marketers and publishers are continuously challenged to deliver engaging content.

Singapore As Its International HQ

Founded in Singapore, Affle also uses the country as their international headquarters for expansion to other geographies, while India is their registered and corporate office.

Affle regards their recent accreditation under the Accreditation@SGD (SG:D) programme as a significant addition.

As a quick background, Accreditation@SGD is a programme launched by the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) in 2014 to help “promising and innovative Singapore-based high-growth infocomm and media (ICM) companies establish their credentials and position them as qualified contenders to government and large enterprise buyers”.

It also provide buyers with the assurance of the SG:D accredited companies’ product core functionalities and ability to deliver.

“The accreditation adds to our credibility. This is especially so in our industry, where consumer data is a sensitive topic,” added Anuj.

“We are one of the few companies in the world that is addressing digital fraud strongly [and] are trying to bring consumer-acceptable advertising in a responsible way,” he added.

Responsible in a way that it has to follow regulations, and it has to invest actively in innovations to stop digital fraud, which has been at the core of Affle always.

“Therefore, […] we have various algorithms that address digital fraud which are continuously evolving.”

This year, Affle proudly announced its accredited status, at the same time becoming the first few ad-tech companies to be accredited.

Soon closing in on its 13th year, I asked Anuj about the biggest challenge he had faced so far.

Is capital one of them?

“More than capital; credibility is the key. For us, we have established ourselves as credible players with transparency and ethics at the core, so finding money wasn’t difficult,” he added.

To Anuj, however, Affle’s biggest win to date isn’t getting funding, or their global presence – it’s the ability to stay inspired even after 13 years of journey.

“In our industry, 13 is very long. But even today, we are seeing ’13th’ as a new beginning.”

I’d like to thank Anuj for his time!

This article was written in collaboration with Accreditation@SG Digital.