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Ad Biz Takes Aim at Rogue Sites

Self-regulation program would prevent counterfeiters and pirates from stealing ad dollars

Illustration: Francesco Bongiorni

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Opening up a new front in the war against rogue sites, advertisers and agencies are working with the government to develop a self-regulation program designed to choke off the flow of ad dollars to sites that steal a brand’s content or identity.

The effort picked up steam recently when the Association of National Advertisers and the 4As urged members to exclude pirates and counterfeiters from insertion orders.

Going after rogue sites is not easy, given the technical complexities and legal pitfalls. Recent legislation like the Stop Online Privacy Act would have given more teeth to enforcers, but the Internet community successfully staged an online blackout, effectively killing the bills.

In the absence of legislation, the White House has embraced self-regulation as a way to combat digital piracy. Officials from the Intellectual Property Enforcement office recently met with ad industry execs from GroupM, Omnicom Media Group and its client Hewlett-Packard on different approaches the industry could take.

“We want to work with ad brokers to develop a set of best practices that are as effective as they possibly can be,” Victoria Espinel, the IP enforcement coordinator, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. “If they work with us, we can make some real headway.”

Ad industry execs confirmed they are talking about setting up an independent body that would manage a blacklist of sites advertisers could use when placing campaigns.

There are many details to be worked out, from how the list is developed and maintained to giving due process to sites that believe they should not be blacklisted. GroupM has successfully used a blacklist it developed with its clients, halting an estimated $5 million from going to rogue sites. H-P and Omnicom’s approach is to use technology that searches the Internet for rogue sites. Verification companies are also looking to build more robust anti-piracy offerings.

“Instead of coming in with a sledgehammer like SOPA did, we’re trying to come in slowly and build something that works,” said Mike Zaneis, svp and general counsel for the Interactive Advertising Bureau. “It’s possible that we can come up with a model that can be expanded beyond the ad industry to payment processors and domain registrars.”