In 2015, CreativeFuture began our Follow the Money campaign – an effort to reduce the appearances of legitimate advertisements on pirate websites. See, pirate websites depend heavily on advertising to make money – and they rely on widely-known brands appearing on their website to give their own criminal operations some legitimate window dressing.

Since the Follow the Money effort began, CreativeFuture, in partnership with the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), has directly reduced the presence of 76 major brands’ advertising on pirate sites. By working with advertising agencies to revise their digital media practices, this program has had a significant impact far beyond just those brands contacted, affecting both the advertising ecosystem as a whole and the profitability of ad-supported infringing sites.

The effect of our efforts is palpable.  Since the program’s inception, many major brands that we have reached out to have virtually eliminated their impressions on infringing websites, stopping the flow of significant revenue to criminal enterprises that participate in digital piracy. Some of these sites have replaced some of the lost ad revenue by taking less profitable and unseemly ads from companies promoting cartoon sex games or Russian brides, signaling to their visitors that they’ve reached a site of questionable legality.  While we cannot take all the credit for the progress in this area, the work done by CreativeFuture and its partners has played no small role in this reduction.

Here are some updated statistics that show the current state of this effort:

A deep reduction in impressions to pirate sites as a result of outreach to advertisers and agencies:

  • 20 billion impressions in 2016 as CreativeFuture and TAG outreach begins
  • Two billion impressions in 2018
  • A 90% reduction in impressions served on pirate sites over two years

Brands no longer appearing in U.S. on pirate sites at volume:

  • In 2016-17, 60+ brands or agencies were each contributing large volumes of ads on pirate sites. Some premium brands placed between 5 and 25 million impressions per month.
  • In 2018, no premium advertisers could be identified at high volumes on pirate sites.

We will continue to closely monitor existing ad-supported piracy sites, and new ones as they pop up, and stand ready to alert brands that appear disproportionately often on piracy sites.

We are proud of the progress we have made to date, and look forward to keeping you apprised as we not only “follow the money” – but stop it.