Edelman Claims Hula Direct Runs Banner Farms

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Anti-spyware legal crusader Ben Edelman has posted a scathing report of web marketing company Hula Direct, alleging that it’s in cahoots with spyware vendors and its affiliate sites are little more than “‘banner farms’ without substantial bona fide content.” “If you’ve got computers that are infected with any of the spyware that’s listed in the article, you’re going to get popups from Hula Direct,” says Edelman, who has been studying related spyware and affiliate advertising data since 2005.

Hula Direct is understandably concerned about Edelman’s statements. “When our sites have ever been displayed on any sort of spyware or adware, we immediately shut off that traffic. And Ben Edelman knows that and in fact we have assisted many many organizations in the fight against spyware,” says Hula Direct CEO Mike Warsinske. “We hate it as much as Ben Edelman does. There’s absolutely no room in the marketplace for spyware and adware, and when our products are displayed on spyware and adware, we’re probably more angry about it than Ben Edelman is, and we take immediate steps to remove it.”

“As I’ve spent time more looking at it, figuring out how the money flows, figuring out where the ads come from, I realize this was notable and deserved to be written about,” says Edelman. “[Hula Direct is] the key decision-maker in the middle. They’re the ones who are buying the spyware traffic, and they’re the ones who are getting the right to show advertisers ads in exchange for getting paid indirectly through ad networks by those advertisers.”

Edelmen’s report comes just as Hula Direct begins to discontinue their direct response advertising division due to lack of demand. Warsinske refutes Edelman saying, “He could’ve come to his conclusion from our sites being placed there through multi-broker relationships. We have no relationships with any of the entities that he referred to.”

Earlier in March, we reported that Hula Direct was involved in a lawsuit against ad network Red McCombs Media.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hula is mistaken when it claims that its sites are served up through spyware only through “multi-broker relationships.” Consider e.g. the example I posted last October: ContextPlus spyware (installed without consent) sent traffic directly to Hula’s clickandtrack.net (a domain registered directly to Hula, not to any intermediary). To be quite clear: The spyware vendor sent traffic to Hula directly, not to any ad network or other middle-man. And I posted an unambiguous packet log to that effect: http://www.benedelman.org/spyware/images/claria-venus123-log-101705.html .

    I have more such packet logs on file. In short: Hula can be shown to have received traffic directly from spyware vendors, not just via “brokers.” Hula ought to take responsibility for these placements, not try to blame others.

    Also, it is striking that Hula does not defend its practices of automatically reloading ads (as often as every nine seconds) and of stacking and covering ads with other ads.

  2. Ben Edelman is incorrect and shows a reckless regard for the truth in nearly every “investigative” attempt to pin bad behavior to good companies. Google, Yahoo and this time Hula Direct. If you look at the packet he claims we directly placed, you clearly see a Zedo tag (we never used Zedo serving directly and this was rebrokered against our policies and quickly terminated).

    Several companies have pinned Ben down in legal agreements which prohibit him from mentioning their name in his blogs and reporting. Claria, Google, Yahoo’s Right Media, ContexWeb and a bunch of other companies large and small have been targets of Ben’s wild, self proclaiming internet police guy acconts–who then turns around and attempts to sell his “Monitoring” back to brand advertisers. Ben is a conflicted guy, who hides behind a Harvard education and affiliation–but is careful not to directly associate himself with Harvard to draw a deep pocket lawsuit target.

    Hula Direct never supported spyware–and apparently several other companies have had to tangle with Ben to neutralize his slander and libel. I have been asked to join in lawsuits against Ben and have declined–as he has already cost enough people their jobs and security by his false and misleading reporting.

    In the case of Hula Direct, we had a strict policy with the media buyers we placed our traffic through which prohibited spyware. When we found any breech to that policy, we acted quickly and responsibly to cure the situation. Ben knows this too, as I acted quickly to contact him to explain our innovative, Free Standing Insert distribution model on the internet which generated millions of quality clicks for advertisers over several years of operation. We enabled content websites with advertising revenue by carrying our innovative advertising units and maintained a strict policy against spyware and any rebrokering of our media to shady players.

    My background as an early online media sales executive, who launched advertising sales for IMDB.com, Andover.net, ClickZ.com, eMarketer.com, Iconocast and dozens of other internet brands far exceeds the slander and libel behavior Ben claims in his sloppy posts.

    It is time to clean up the internet–and I suggest Ben focus on the actual bad actors in the sector–like his friend Pesach Lattin, formerly of Vizi Media now working for Scott Richter. Pesach owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid media to dozens of media suppliers. To avoid paying, Pesach recruited Ben to attack media providers who Pesach owed money to. Hula Direct was one, but there were several others.

    Guess who founded Adotas–Pesach Lattin, Ben’s source for a lot of his fiction.

  3. These posts by someone claiming to be “Mike Warsinske” four years after this expose are ridiculous. The claims that somehow that Ben Eldelman made up these findings because of some nefarious plot not to pay bills is paranoid and strange.

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