Case Study: Nexon M

About Nexon

NEXON Co., Ltd. is a global leader in online games, with more than 80 live games operated across more than 190 countries. Nexon pioneered microtransactions and free-to-play business models. The company is widely credited with unmatched global expertise in sophisticated live game operations, nurturing player communities, and sustaining games for years, even decades.

Founded in Korea in 1994, the company is now headquartered in Japan and listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Nexon M, a subsidiary of Nexon based in Emeryville, CA, is responsible for titles such as Dominations, Darkness Rises, Durango, AxE, and other mobile hits which have a combined total of over 100 million installs worldwide.

The Challenge

You shouldn’t have to fight ad fraud on your own

As one of the largest gaming companies in the world, representing hundreds of millions of installs on Nexon’s global portfolio, Nexon M is a prime target for ad fraud. As the marketing team’s primary KPI is Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), the company took a proactive approach to scrubbing ad fraud from its traffic and preserving ad investments. Nexon M created a system of manual reconciliation to claw back ad money that was stolen by fraudsters.

However, in 2018 more sophisticated approaches to fraud — such as Device Farms, SDK Spoofing, Click Injection, and Click Spamming — became difficult to detect and prevent using manual reconciliation alone. On top of that, constant reconciliation can strain the relationships between an app publisher and its advertising partners. Operating in a ROAS model, its marketing efforts were notably affected by types of ad fraud that were increasingly difficult to detect — meaning ad fraud was beginning to become a demonstrable drag on Nexon M's user acquisition strategy.

When it comes to ad monetization in general, nobody benefits from fraud except the fraudsters.

Robert Garfinkle

User Acquisition Manager, Nexon M

The Solution

Using Adjust’s FPS to root out existing fraud and prevent future fraud

Nexon M decided to use Adjust’s Fraud Prevention Suite because of our coverage against the types of ad fraud they were faced with — Click Spam, Click Injection, SDK Spoofing and Device Farms using Anonymous IPs. Our Fraud Prevention Suite (FPS) is a series of automated filters that reject fraudulent installs before attribution can occur. We use battle-tested probabilistic and statistical models to highlight and reject fraudulent installs:

  • Distribution Modeling works by creating histograms of click-to-first-open times in order to score trackers. After a certain threshold, installs are rejected from a tracker until the histograms reach normalized levels.
  • Too Many Engagements Filter identifies multiple engagements coming from the same IP address, which is a hallmark indicator of click spamming.
  • Click Injection Filter leverages timestamps from Google’s Referrer API to highlight illogical clicks that are most likely injected to poach installs.
  • SDK Signature encrypts all callbacks between Adjust SDK and Adjust backend, preventing SDK Spoofing from imitating and defrauding the app’s MMP SDK.
  • Anonymous IP Filter prevents any installs coming in from VPNs, Tors, or data centers, which are often used by device farms and emulated devices to fake installs.

Nexon M appreciated that Adjust automatically rejects installs before they can affect the wider ad budget and data. Instead of spending time and energy trying to claw back money from fraudulent installs, Nexon M was able to refocus its resources on optimizing marketing spend. The team was able to significantly raise ROAS after implementing Adjust’s FPS. As performance increased, so did its budgets, driving even more growth.

By having the Fraud Prevention Suite implemented, your game is a heavily armored target for fraudsters. For our newest games, having Fraud Prevention Suite enabled is like having a full set of immunizations.

Robert Garfinkle

User Acquisition Manager, Nexon M

Nexon M’s fraud reporting found that its new games were experiencing much less ad fraud than some of the older titles. This can be attributed to the FPS’s effect on the ad waterfall. As publishers are judged by their ability to bring in revenue, FPS highlights which publishers are bringing in legitimate traffic and which ones have been compromised by fraudsters. When publishers are unable to bring in legitimate traffic, they fall out of the ad waterfall, making it difficult for fraudsters to gain access to Nexon M’s budgets. Nexon M could then divert more budget into partners that continued to bring in ROI.

Nexon M relies on Adjust to maintain the quality of their user acquisition. As one of the largest gaming publishers running on a freemium model, it needs real users with actual intent to meet their ROAS goals. Adjust FPS is a crucial partner in ensuring that Nexon M’s marketing strategy continues to drive success.

The Adjust Fraud Prevention Suite is the most ideal solution on the market, and we’ve vetted quite a few.

Robert Garfinkle

User Acquisition Manager, Nexon M

The Result

Adjust’s FPS saves valuable time and resources from being wasted on fraud

Types of Ad Fraud encountered and prevented (range defined by geo)

  • Anonymous IP: 44-46%
  • Distribution Outliers (Click Spam): 22-26%
  • Click Injection: 6-10%
  • SDK Signature: 15-22%
  • Too Many Engagements (Click Spam): 6-8%

Nexon M considers SDK Spoofing and Click Injection to be the most virulent and damaging types of ad fraud. SDK Spoofing is virtually undetectable without cryptographic filters like Adjust’s SDK Signature — and while Click Injection is detectable, it’s unprofitable to build in-house filters, making FPS a more effective and economical solution.

Additionally, Nexon M saved roughly 2.5-5% of total media spend from fraudulent attribution. However, the true savings is even higher when you consider how FPS prevents Nexon M from advertising with publishers that have high rates of fraud. Without FPS, Nexon M would still be advertising with these publishers, pushing even more CPM towards fraudsters that can’t be calculated.

Fighting fraud is time intensive, especially when it comes to disputing ad fraud. Nexon M UAs would budget man hours on a regular basis during billing reconciliations. In the year after implementing Adust FPS, the time savings likely totaled several work days per team member.