eBay As A Media Buying Strategy: Alleged Adware Provider Wins FleetCenter, Pregnant Belly Rights

by , Feb 16, 2005, 9:30 AM
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Golden Palace Casino has bought ad space on the bellies of pregnant women, a grilled cheese sandwich bearing a likeness of the Virgin Mary, and one-day naming rights to the renowned FleetCenter in Boston. All are part of a unique media buying strategy utilizing online auction site eBay, a budget of more than $190,000 and 26 successful bids. Now the online casino is getting attention from watchdog groups for allegedly distributing adware, the notorious downloadable ad application that has gotten the attention of lawmakers.

Golden Palace Tuesday said it paid $35,099 to secure naming rights for the FleetCenter and $8,800 to for rights to advertise on a second pregnant woman's belly, eight-months pregnant mom-to-be Elise Harp of Roswell, Ga.

Golden Palace Marketing Director Drew Black says the cash outlay is more than worth the publicity. "A lot of people laugh and ask, 'How can you spend $20,000 on a piece of toast?' But you can't buy that kind of marketing," said Black. "It's a creative way to get the media involved as well," he added, referring to the coverage the purchases have received.

But, while Golden Palace has captured the public's attention with its quirky eBay bids, some Internet security companies have had their eye on the online casino for another reason--it's considered an adware provider.

Representatives of computer security companies Symantec and McAfee both said they consider Golden Palace's downloadable software to be adware. Security research company Internet Security Systems added that Golden Palace's software loads whenever Internet Explorer starts and bypasses most security measures, because it can act as part of the browser itself. It then opens up ads while the user is browsing the Net, and could be used by an attacker to execute malicious code on the user's machine. Adware consultant Ben Edelman said Golden Palace's product appeared to be consistent with a "general trend" toward bundling adware with other software during installations.

Black indicated that he was surprised to hear complaints about Golden Palace's software. He stressed that users had to download the software voluntarily.

Questions also remain about whether the St. Johns, Antigua-based Golden Palace is even operating a legal business. Some government officials take the position that all online gambling is illegal, but others have indicated that Internet gambling might be lawful, provided the casino itself isn't located in the country.

As of press time, it wasn't clear whether the FleetCenter would accept Golden Palace's bid. A spokeswoman for the FleetCenter has final say on any proposed name; when asked about the legality of online gambling, she said that the FleetCenter's lawyers were investigating the issue.

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