Along with spam and malware, bad ads — whether they’re for illegal or counterfeit goods, delivering malware or trying to scam users — are a scourge on the internet, eroding trust and poisoning the environment for legitimate marketers.
A few months ago, folks at some of the internet’s biggest ad sellers — AOL, Google, Facebook, and Twitter — began talking about collaborating to fight this universal problem. The result is the Ads Integrity Alliance, an industry initiative launching today under the aegis of non-profit StopBadware, and also involving the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
These charter members plan to collaborate in a few different ways. First, they’ll work to develop and share definitions of bad ads, make industry policy recommendations and establish best practices. They will also share information about specific bad actors, who may be buying ads across a variety of sellers. They’ll also establish ties to policymakers and law enforcement agencies, to keep them abreast of trends.
Though the companies and organizations involved, other than StopBadware itself, are all sellers of ads or represent ad sellers (the IAB), Maxim Weinstein, president and executive director of StopBadware said they will also work to recruit consumer advocate groups, to ensure that the consumer’s voice is part of the discussions.
“This is ultimately about protecting users,” said Weinstein.
Weinstein says the charter members will be coming up with policies and a process for other companies and non-profits to join the Alliance.
For the ad sellers, it’s also a way to try to convince policymakers, law enforcement and the public at large that they’re trying to do something about these bad ads. Many critics believe that the ad sellers have a financial incentive to accept ads from anyone that comes along — so they’re disincentivized from finding the bad guys.
Google is the company that’s gotten the most criticism — and legal action — on this count. The company recently agreed to pay $500 million to settle a case involving illegal pharmaceutical ads. It’s also been under fire for ads that are a cover for human trafficking. On the more positive PR side, it’s been helping track down and cancel the accounts of mortgage scammers.
Through it all, Google has maintained that it’s in its best interest to rid its advertising rolls from bad actors, to increase the level of consumer trust — and therefore click-throughs and conversions for legitimate businesses.