Alert system aims to keep brandname ads off dodgy sites

An advertising industry organization that fights criminal activity in the digital advertising supply chain has launched a warning system targeted at pirate sites in Europe.

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) says the initiative – called Project Brand Integrity – will protect European brands from association with illegal stolen content by alerting advertisers to ads running on pirate sites.

Pirate websites depend heavily on advertising to make money, and they often rely on well-known brands appearing on their site to lend some legitimacy to their criminal operations.

A similar alert scheme has been operating in the US since 2016, and according to TAG has resulted in the number of impressions on pirate content sites in the US by more than 90 per cent over two years, and has eliminated all ads from premium brand advertisers on those sites.

In Europe, a company called White Bullet will scan the top ad-supported infringing sites serving European markets, identifying any ads from reputable brands appearing on such sites. The same service is provided by CreativeFuture in the US.

According to a release from the City of London Police’s intellectual property crime unit PIPCU, which is supporting the initiative along with Europol, the system will work as follows:

“White Bullet will capture screenshots of both the advertisement and the associated code to reveal all the entities responsible for placing the ad on the site. When a brand has notable ad exposure on infringing sites, White Bullet will notify TAG and provide an evidence package, including screenshots and the advertising code.”

“TAG will privately contact the advertiser and/or its advertising agency and alert them to the ad misplacements, so they can take remedial action [and] also will educate advertisers/agencies about effective anti-piracy tools to reduce or eliminate future risk.”

TAG has also developed a white paper to give companies an insight into the practices they can adopt to curb the problem.

Mike Zaneis, chief executive of TAG notes that “if you are a brand advertiser, the skull-and-crossbones isn’t just a pirate movie trope. It accurately reflects the toxic danger of associating your brand with stolen content and criminal activities on pirate sites.”

“Project Brand Integrity will serve as an early warning system for advertisers and their agencies, so we can alert them when their ads have run near stolen content and help them implement effective safeguards to prevent it from happening again.”

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