How Advertisers Can Lead the Fight Against Digital Piracy

Picture, for a moment, a 1961 Ferrari 250GT California Spider, the iconic car made famous in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. After thousands of hours of painstaking and meticulous restoration, the interior is flawless, the body is immaculate, and the engine hums like it just left the factory.

If you spent years of your life perfecting that symbol of automotive excellence, would you toss the keys to some stranger in a dangerous part of town? Unfortunately, in the digital ad space, too many companies are putting their precious brands at comparable risk by letting their ads run on Web properties that facilitate piracy and counterfeit products.

For marketers, our brands are our most valuable possessions. We’ve spent years building them through direct interaction with customers and expensive media campaigns, and we protect them with detailed guidelines that focus on everything from typography to size, placement, tone, context, color, and orientation, among dozens of other visual elements.



While such “brand bibles” can run more than a hundred pages, they often lack an important chapter for today’s digital age:  How to prevent brand damage from your ads running on risky Web sites and mobile properties.

We know the Web sites that promote stolen content and counterfeit products tend to be bad actors in other areas as well, from malware and viruses to pop-ups and redirects, illegal activities, or sexually explicit or violent content.

Most advertisers would gladly remove such sites from their campaigns, but until now, there hasn’t been an easy process to ensure it will happen. Advertisers and agencies have lacked a simple cross-industry solution to ensure that their digital campaigns meet their internal brand guidelines.

Luckily, that’s now changing.

Last year, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) came together to create the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), a cooperative industry effort to tackle some of the toughest problems in the digital ad supply chain, including ad-supported piracy, digital advertising fraud, malware, and lack of transparency.

In its first new program to address those challenges, TAG recently unveiled the Brand Integrity Program Against Piracy; I was proud to serve as an advisor.

The Brand Integrity Program Against Piracy is a voluntary initiative through which TAG will validate select technology companies – known as Digital Advertising Assurance Providers (or DAAPs) – to help advertisers and their technology partners identify and screen out Web sites that do not meet each advertiser’s brand standards for risk of infringement.

In more basic terms, TAG will deputize a group of white-hat technology companies, the DAAPs, to help advertisers and agencies identify and screen out the Web sites on which we don’t want our campaigns to appear. To get validated as a DAAP, those companies will have to show that they have the ability to find and/or block sites that don’t meet advertisers’ brand standards. In addition, some larger companies that provide advertisers with anti-piracy solutions in-house can self-attest to meeting the DAAP standards. 

For advertisers, the process will be simple. Once the program is deployed this spring, advertisers and agencies can simply use a DAAP or ask their advertising partners to use a DAAP to identify digital properties that don't meet their brand standards. Each advertiser determines what level of risk it finds unacceptable, and the DAAPs help to ensure that the properties used in each campaign meets those risk standards.

In short, each brand advertiser will set its own standards for appropriate placement, and the DAAPs help monitor and enforce those standards. While the entire system is voluntary, I hope every brand advertiser will see the incredible value not only to their brand protection efforts but also to improving the digital advertising ecosystem as a whole.

We’re holding the keys to a beautiful car. Let’s make sure we keep it in mint condition, so we can watch it fly on the open road.








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