Case studies

Organic poaching

Oct 01, 2018


Ad impressions
served monthly


Ad impressions
served monthly


Ad impressions
served monthly

October 1, 2018

We classify mobile ad fraud into three categories. We previously looked at Phantom Installs and Junk Installs, and now we focus on Organic Poaching.

Organic Poaching Mobile Ad Fraud Three Categories

Organic Poaching in the taxonomy of mobile ad fraud

Organic Poaching covers any form of fraud where an advertiser steals credit for an install that would have happened anyway. We distinguish Organic Poaching from other forms of ad fraud where no install actually occurs, such as Junk Installs and Phantom Installs.

Organic poaching is perfect for fraudsters who want to take advantage of the growing emphasis on performance marketing. Advertisers nowadays are obsessed with finding channels that deliver good performance, but most other forms of fraud deliver users with very poor lifetime value (LTV).

Organic poaching, however, delivers users whose LTV exactly matches that of their organic users. Poached users look to be high quality, so advertisers often mistakenly trust these channels and throw money in their direction. However, every time their traffic increases, organic traffic decreases by the same amount. Conversely, when the channels are shut off, organic traffic increases correspondingly. In both cases, the total install volume remains the same, the only difference is whether you pay for these users or not.

Types of organic poaching

Types of Organic Poaching

We’ve identified many kinds of organic poaching, including fingerprinting fraud, click injection, and click spamming. Each of these methods has its own peculiarities worth exploring, so we are creating multiple posts exploring each subject. Our series will include posts on these subjects:

Case study: misaligned company incentives

Kelly was the CMO of a fast-growing mobile app that recently raised a Series B round. The app was interested in moving beyond organic traffic and using their funding for paid user acquisition. Kelly hired Gene as a Director of Growth, whose job was to manage paid growth channels. Gene had a budget for paid user acquisition, and his key metric was to increase traffic from channels meeting minimum quality thresholds.

Gene’s efforts appeared quite successful at first. He used up their entire budget on channels that performed as well as their organic users. Kelly approved increasing budgets for Gene each month. After a few months of strong growth, however, Kelly was frustrated to find overall growth was not accelerating. She suspected fraud and used DoubleCheck to try to uncover what was happening.

When DoubleCheck reviewed these paid channels, they found that nearly all of the paid channels were committing some form of organic poaching. As a result, every time the paid traffic increased, the organic traffic decreased. Overall traffic remained the same, but they were having to pay for installs that were previously free. Kelly fired Gene and turned off all the paid channels, and found that total traffic remained the same.

Misaligned Company Incentives Daily Install Overview

When the company turned off networks that were poaching organic users, the total install volume stayed the same

We see this app started cannibalizing itself when it stated paying for its own users. Though Gene lost his job here, perhaps Kelly is also at fault for misaligning incentives. Growth managers like Gene will always endeavor to use and increase their budgets. If a competing department head was responsible for monitoring and increasing organic growth, they may have pushed back against Gene’s efforts. Yet few mobile apps are organized in such a manner, creating internal incentives that promote organic poaching.

Here are our takeaways for how leaders of mobile apps can protect themselves:

  • Closely monitor organic traffic rates for unexpected increases or decreases whenever you make major changes.
  • Consider establishing a department responsible for protecting organic traffic as an organizational counterweight to paid traffic departments.
  • Promote a strong company-wide culture against fraud, backed up by providing access to comprehensive anti-fraud tools.


Industry issues





More Stories

Moloco Cloud DSP

Burger King gains high-value users at 30% lower CPI with Moloco’s machine learning-powered DSP

Leveraging Moloco Cloud DSP's advanced machine learning engine, Burger King Korea experienced 28% increase in install volume while maintaining a 30% lower CPI than other ad networks.

Read Post
Moloco Cloud DSP

Moloco Supports Custom Product Pages for iOS Campaigns

Custom product page (CPP) lets advertisers create multiple versions of their app store page for iOS 15+ users. Advertisers can customize each page with unique URLs, screenshots, videos, and promotional texts to make content more relevant for different audiences. CPP can boost iOS campaign performance by streamlining the customer journey and highlighting different app features.

Read Post
Moloco Cloud DSP

Lessmore exceeds ROAS goal by 80% within 2 weeks

A hybrid casual game studio, Lessmore, surpassed its ROAS goal by 80% within two weeks thanks to Moloco's dual ROAS model, powered by Singular

Read Post

Subscribe to the Moloco Newsletter

Want to learn more?