LA Times on Adware Advertisers–Including 1800 Contacts?

The LA Times reports on brand name advertisers found advertising on adware, including Mercedes-Benz and Travelocity.com. As is typical in these situations, the brand names disavow any connection with the adware advertsing as soon as the press contacts them. This may be true–as discussed in detail in the article, third parties may be fully responsible for the behavior–but it’s hard not to speculate that some of these advertisers actually meant to advertise on adware because it works.

The article also demonstrates just how hard it is for brand owners to manage affiliate marketing. In an ironic twist, 1800 Contacts, one of the most cutthroat users of the legislative and litigation process to stifle legitimate competition by preventing adware-spawned ads from appearing in connection with its site, apparently has paid an affiliate marketer for activity generated from adware/spyware distributed through a drive-by-download. The LA Times reports the following:

“Schmidt [a rep for 1800 Contacts] recently bought tools to check into his company’s biggest online referral claims and threw out a third of the commissions as improperly earned. The worst offender, he said, was a “drive-by download” that installed spyware without asking and then claimed credit when infected users went to the 1-800 Contacts website on their own.”

If a company as brand-sensitive as 1800 Contacts can’t run a clean affiliate program, who can?

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