I had the pleasure of getting to talk to Kellie Stevens from AffiliateFairPlay, the Leading Adware Expert in the USA, last Friday for an interview for AdamRiemer.me. Kellie is a wealth of knowledge and thanks to her efforts many of us have learned how to not only detect adware and theft in our programs like through the use of toolbars, PPV, bho’s etc… but without Kellie we probably would not have even known it existed. I consider her one of my most valuable mentors and influences and am thankful for the interview below. She is a wealth of knowledge and I highly recommend using her services. They more than pay for themselves.
How did you get started testing adware?
I started hearing talk about these applications back around 2000 or so. I was just curious as to what they were really doing and what impact they might be having on my sites. So I installed some to see for myself first hand. I didn’t like nor agree with much of what I saw. I began posting some of my testing results in discussions on ABW. People began to ask me to test particular applications or check on a specific incident. Over time, things just seemed to grow.
We all remember some of the toolbar videos you shot and made famous, we all also know that toolbars are still an issue in most major Affiliate Networks and are still active, so how is this PPV any different?
I’m not sure about the famous point, but you bring up a very good question regarding the different technologies out there. The behavior (manner in which revenue is generated) has always been the issue for me, not the various technologies which may be used to engage in the behavior. Whether a behavior, like a hidden forced click, happens via a toolbar, widget, BHO, desktop app or web page wasn’t as important to me as the hidden forced click itself.
When the joint network Code of Conduct came out, one of my biggest contentions was why there was even the need for a separate standard for software technology. The rules of engagment should be the same whether it is a software Affiliate or a web-based Affiliate.
I still contend it should be about what is considered appropriate revenue generation tactics by Affiliates. Indeed, I think it is even more significant to take that approach as technologies have continued to rapidly advance.
PPV (via adware) isn’t anything new. It’s been around for years. It just has a new name and a new following. If it is deemed unacceptable to elicit an automatic click of an affiliate link via PPV adware, then why is it not also unacceptable to elicit an automated click through a toolbar?
There remains a need in our industry to objectively evaluate traffic and revenue generation tactics and apply consistent rationale behind acceptable and unacceptable methods.
I noticed you had started writing some great articles on Revenews.com. What got you to decide to start posting there?
Thanks for the compliment and I hope people find the posts on Revenews.com helpful. I’ve known Angel for a long time now and have worked with him on numerous occasions in the past. I have a lot of respect for his standing in our community and his knowledge of the industry. Ultimately, Angel was persistent in his goal to have me post on Revenews. I am enjoying my work with Revenews very much. I suppose I should have succumbed much sooner.
Do you think that the Government will get involved with things like toolbars or PPV considering what has happened with eBay and the cookie stuffing issue?
I think it should be clear that the government is getting more involved. The FTC, as well as some Attorney Generals, have already laid the framework with regards to some aspects of adware distribution and behavior related directly to the consumer. Now we are seeing the FBI addressing cookie stuffing, not only with some affiliate allegedly engaging in the behavior, but a case involving an individual selling a cookie stuffing script. That case has already been settled with the defendant pleading guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
We’ve seen other involvement of the Government in Affiliate Marketing issues, such as with Gratis Offers. It is a natural evolution of a new industry for the Government to become more involved, especially when there is significant money flowing through that industry. I don’t think the question is whether the Government becomes more involved but rather how many opportunities we give the Government to become involved based on how we are doing business.
What would you recommend to Merchant’s just starting out and what they should consider if they are launching an Affiliate program or looking at Media Buys with ad networks?
I’m assuming you mean in relation to adware activity.
You bring yet another good point regarding media buys and ad networks. There is a lot of talk about adware and Affiliate Marketing, but Affiliate Marketing isn’t the only revenue source for adware applications. Revenue is generated via adware through all the online marketing channels.
The first thing a merchant needs to do is educate themselves on the adware business models. They need to understand exactly how ads are being delivered and how advertising dollars are being generated.
I think the second most important aspect for a merchant is to truly understand what behaviors their ad network (whether Affiliate or otherwise) allows via the TOS with their Affiliates and Publishers. The networks TOS may not always be in alignment with the merchant’s advertising goals.
Are you available for private consultations and how can people reach you to have you help them look for adware like PPV in their programs or Media Buys?
I can be reached through www.affiliatefairplay.com. I’m also on IM, Twitter and FaceBook.