As I reported this February, the advertising industry announced a new initiative led by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) called the Brand Integrity Program Against Piracy. That post outlines the basic principles of the program, but suffice to say, this is a voluntary effort by the major brand advertisers to keep their high-value ads off exploitative sites, whose traffic is derived by media piracy.
In what will likely prove to be a significant step forward for this program, the world’s largest advertising conglomerate, WPP’s GroupM, today announced that it will require its partners to use TAG-certified, anti-piracy services. GroupM handles $106 billion in media for its clients according to Adweek. Writes Lauren Johnson, reporting on this news for that publication, “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.”
While many pioneers of the Internet did not envision that its design would ultimately serve the purpose of advertising, there’s no question that’s how it is designed today. Just about every declaration we hear about the Internet’s power to [insert platitude here] is backed entirely by the revenue derived by marketing and advertising. Every “new model” recommendation to authors of creative works—whether valid or not—is in one way or another predicated on advertising revenue. Web 2.0 is a media business. And whether or not everyone thinks this is the best possible use of this technology is secondary to the fact that the value in this market should be inoculated against the toxicity enabled by the technology.
Piracy is too often treated as either neutral, beneficial, or prescient; and it is assumed that the only victims are giant corporations, which can afford to lose a few sales. GroupM’s progress in this initiative demonstrates that widespread piracy actually poisons the entire value stream that drives the Internet as we know it today. And anyone who still thinks that to be anti-piracy is synonymous with being anti-technology should take a gander at this video from GroupM’s agency Mindshare.