ad-monkeyLate last month ad industry executives from around the country attended the annual Advertising Week convention in New York. Included among the events was a panel “Digital Media Value Under Attack: It’s Worse than You Thought.”   Nebulous title aside, it was basically a discussion focusing on the role that advertising plays in supporting online piracy. Rick Cotton, NBCUniversal’s Senior Counselor for IP Protection, pretty much summed it up when pointed out that,  “No one has asked the blunt question of whether you want your ad associated with a pirate site…Advertisers should not want their ads to be in that environment. It’s getting more risky to be in business with criminal websites.”

Bob Liodice, CEO of ANA (Association of National Advertisers) agreed and suggested the industry needs to be accountable for its role in monetizing piracy.

“It makes us all shake our heads, wondering how we can wrap our arms around this. We have theft going on here.” Liodice believes that one problem is that no one has taken “ownership” of the piracy problem. “We have to create a level of collaboration in order for the [advertising] industry to own the issue.” Liodice stressed that collaboration has to be “systematized” and that the industry has to make it “personal.”

I know it’s only been a couple of weeks, but the advertising industry has been aware of the problem for a long time and yet nothing changes. Despite lip-service to the contrary and July’s White House’s announcementt of a much-hyped–but essentially toothless–anti-piracy “best practices” pact by online ad servers GoogleMicrosoft, Yahoo AOL and others, the sad fact is that advertisements from major American companies continue to adorn (and make money for) pirate web pages.

Below is just a sampling of ads that popped up when I looked for (and found) pirated streams of a recent indie film “White Frog.”


Why is it still acceptable for online advertisers to get away with this?  Why is their money still filling pirate coffers at the expense of content creators?  Online ad service providers and their clients seem to have no difficulty fine-tuning technology to sniff out web user’s product preferences.  Why can’t they sniff out pirate pages and block their ads from appearing there?  Do the head honchos at Snickers or USA Today know that their logos are plastered across stolen goods?  Do they care?  Why isn’t Disney, an entertainment giant, making sure that their dollars don’t end up in pirate pockets?

I can’t really think of any excuse for these major brands to be in the business of paying pirates to promote their products.  Clearly the powers that be don’t care enough to demand change.  For them, it’s all about the money, morals be damned…

For content creators whose work is routinely stolen and monetized by others perhaps its time to really pay attention.  I know I won’t be putting snickers in any trick or treater’s plastic pumpkin this Halloween.