GroupM Fights Back: Says Sites With Pirated Content Cost Advertisers $200 Million Annually

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WPP’s GroupM is putting new guidelines in place that will require its media partners to receive anti-piracy certification from the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG).

According to a report from the Digital Citizens Alliance, $200 million in advertising is spent every year on websites that contain pirated content—copied news articles or e-commerce sites that sell counterfeit goods—designed to trick ad networks into thinking they’re legitimate properties on which to run ads.

AdWeek points out that such fraudulent sites rip off advertisers in two ways: They sell ads against copied content, or they set up botnets that infect computers with viruses that drive huge numbers of clicks on ads.

“We realized that this is a major, growing issue,” said John Montgomery, chairman of GroupM North America and co-chair of the TAG Anti-Piracy Working Group (pictured top left). “For the past few years, we’ve been tackling this process by creating our own lists of pirated sites and making sure that our ads didn’t go onto those sites.” (GroupM handles $106 billion in media for advertisers.)

The first round of approved companies—which TAG calls Digital Advertising Assurance Providers or DAAPs—will be released during the fourth quarter of this year. On Jan. 1, GroupM will start enforcing the rule in its campaigns. According to Montgomery, none of WPP’s clients have been hit with fraud from bootleg websites yet, but the company wants to add the extra verification step should it become a bigger issue. “Just because there’s no crime doesn’t mean you fire the police force,” Montgomery said.

“What we see as an industry is that there’s not much differentiation between the fraudulent activity and things like proliferation of malware and the stealing of content through piracy sites,” says Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG. “These are all links in a chain of criminal activity that is victimizing the digital advertising supply chain. It’s perpetrated by the same entities.”

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