Yesterday, lawmakers on Capitol Hill called upon leaders in the advertising community to take more concrete steps to prevent advertisements from appearing on illegal pirate sites, a major source of their funding.
In a letter to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), members of Congress pointed to the availability of technical solutions that can help legitimate companies prevent their ads from appearing on illegal sites. The letter cited a recent report from the Digital Citizens Alliance, which estimated that a sample of just 600 pirate sites made $227 million in annual advertising revenue.
In May 2012, the ANA and the 4A’s announced a “Statement of Best Practices to Address Online Piracy and Counterfeiting”. Others in the advertising community have followed with similar agreements.
But given recent advancements in technology, Congress thinks responsible companies should do more to help take the profit out of piracy.
“Best practices are useful, but greater specificity is needed around preventative measures that participants in the digital advertising ecosystem can – and should – take to avoid the placement of ads on piracy sites, as well as the development of metrics to measure the effectiveness of these steps. Only through proactive efforts will the harms associated with ad-supported piracy be mitigated,” the letter said.
The initial reaction to Capitol Hill from advertisers appears promising. Dan Jaffe, EVP of the ANA, told AdWeek:
“The advertising community is increasingly concerned about how their business practices are being undermined and damaged by piracy and click fraud, which could be as much as a third of what people are spending. The dollars are enormous. We have tremendous financial incentives to resolve these issues. As a group, we’ve made this a priority. We agree best practices aren’t the final issue.”
This echoes past statements from other advertising leaders.
In August 2013, the President and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, Bob Liodice, wrote in an op-ed:
“The volume and availability of traffic on rogue sites may be tempting. But rest assured, it is in everyone’s best interest to demonstrate support for brands by protecting them from compromising situations. Our industry must combat and halt the content pirates hijacking our ads.”
Randall Rothenberg, the head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said in February:
“…we need to step up our game, and create a quality control program that covers the entire ad-supported Internet. Make no mistake: This means an industry behavior change, at an unprecedented scale. We must create an all-inclusive program that identifies qualified participants, and commits them to good actions, guaranteed by continual monitoring and sanctions for non-compliance.”
And Eric Franchi, co-founder of the ad network Undertone and IAB Board Member, said:
“Agencies and exchanges can start by making sure ads aren’t placed outside exchanges’ safe, white-listed sites, and use a verification service to provide monitoring.”
Voluntary best practices by legitimate companies can be an effective solution to reduce piracy – if their implementation keeps pace with a rapidly changing digital landscape. The vast majority of illegal pirate websites are in it to make a profit. And all legitimate businesses that operate online have a shared interest in a vibrant, legal marketplace for creative works.
The creative community is fortunate to have strong leaders in Washington standing up for creative rights online. We thank Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the leaders of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus for their commitment to promoting creativity.