Eco(system) Friendly Advertising

Published October 13, 2015

When the value of the Internet is threatened the entire ecosystem needs to respond. Success in the digital world is achievable when all parties understand that they cannot stand on their own, that in fact an economically thriving digital ecosystem requires good faith cooperation, within the bounds of the law, and with an eye towards what is best for the broader ecosystem. In other words, the distributed nature of the Internet is a fundamental part of its design, and no one entity, whether private sector or government, can control it so stakeholder cooperation is imperative for the success of all. Given the challenges of global brand’s online advertising appearing on sites with pirated content, to have a world leader in advertising such as WPP announce that its media partners must receive anti-piracy certification from the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is a big deal.

From the press release, “TAG is a voluntary initiative created by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to eliminate fraudulent digital advertising traffic, combat malware, fight ad-supported Internet piracy to promote brand integrity, and promote brand safety through greater transparency. TAG will work with authorized independent third-party validators, including Ernst & Young and Stroz Friedberg, to certify advertising technology companies as Digital Advertising Assurance Providers (DAAPs). To be validated as a DAAP, companies must show they can provide other advertising companies with tools to limit their exposure to undesirable websites or other properties by effectively meeting one or more criteria.”

The move is noteworthy not just because of the impact on pirate sites but also because by disassociating those global brands from illegal behavior the value of the brands will increase. How do legitimate brands end up on pirate Websites in the first place, ultimately providing financial gain to the wrongdoers? Through ad networks.

Generally, a company may purchase ads through an ad network which promises a certain number of impressions across an ad network for a certain amount of money. So, generally, the more people who see the ad, or interact with it, the greater the cost. Pirate Websites generate revenue when the ads running on the sites are viewed and lend credibility to pirate site simply by the brand appearing to be selecting that very site for its ads. The profit generated by these ads is quite substantial. Given the minimal start up and operating costs, and that the content the sites are “selling” being stolen from artists and creators, any income results in abundant profit.

But companies have figured out that they are being damaged by their ads association with wrong-doers. John Montgomery, Chairman, GroupM Connect, North America and Co-Chair of the TAG Anti-Piracy Working Group noted, “[t]here’s no brand in the world that wants their advertising to appear on a pirate site or wants to be seen as supporting piracy, even inadvertently…. A brand’s entire reputation is at stake – something that they’ve been nurturing for decades or, in some cases, centuries.” Montgomery further observed “[t]he people who create pirate sites are the same ones who perpetrate clickbot fraud – they’re the ones who spread malware and create the armies of bots that generate most of the automated clicks in the business…. Which is why being worried about ad fraud without also being aware of the role piracy plays in its perpetration is like fretting over a flood in your apartment while neglecting to turn off the tap.”

In other words, piracy is a bad deal for everyone in the Internet ecosystem except for the bad guys themselves. They use other’s property, both copyright protected material but also the brands, to line their pockets, contributing nothing in return. Thanks should be given to all actors as they continue to respond to these actions which leach value from the online ecosystem. In fact, take a moment to thank GroupM for their leadership in keeping the Internet a thriving, robust place for innovation, invention and creation. Click here to send a quick email or tweet.