Adware and Media Buys. Does Opt In Mean it’s OK?

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Before you read this, please understand these are just my thoughts and opinions.  I am in no way shape or form able to legal advice but what I can do is voice my opinions and thoughts on adware and the possible consequences that I think may end up becoming a reality.  If you want an actual legal opinion call a lawyer, if you want my opinion which I can easily back up, read this post and then contact me by leaving a message below.  Also, not all of the adware applications in the videos still exist.  Please feel free to write me if you would like to know which may no longer exist and which do.

The argument almost every adware company and Affiliate makes or Media Agency or Media Buyer makes is that their adware is opt in so that makes it ok.  The reality is that you can go either way based on being opted in but do you actually understand what opting in means in this case and who is actually effected by the opt in and who actually didn’t opt in?

The opt in argument for me is mute.  It doesn’t matter and I am still opposed 100%.  I am not talking about all adware but I am talking about PPV, Pop Ups, Toolbars, Plug Ins, Windows, Interstitial and other forms of adware applications that actually show ads over other people’s sites, the Merchant’s own site, overwriting other cookies and tracking methods to take credit for sales, etc…

So here’s the deal.  Adware companies and Affiliates will say the end user opted in.  By this they mean that the end user or person who has the adware application, toolbar, software, etc… on their computer and browser has said it is ok to place the adware there.  Yes that is opting in but it isn’t always clear that they know what they opted in for.  Maybe they only opted in for the flash game or the ringtone but in reality the person that owns the computer and does the shopping never actually did opt in to the adware application and because the terms and conditions of downloading the ringtone and adware are long and or the adware is hidden in the legal jargon, it is unread and unkown.  Unfortunately the opt in of the end user isn’t actually the bigger issue, I just wanted to clear up that yes, someone on that computer may have opted in, but opting in doesn’t mean for adware and doesn’t mean they knew what they were opting in to like with a newsletter or email campaign.  Now lets go to the bigger issue.  Although someone on the end users computer opted in to whatever they were downloading, they are not the ones who are being stolen from and although they may get annoyed with pop ups, reminderware, loyaltyware, couponware, etc… their overall lives are not going to be that effected.  The Merchant’s and webmasters the applications are stealing from are the ones that are effected.

The end user opted in so the adware company got their adware installed.  First goal completed for the adware company.  But how is the traffic generated from the adware since it doesn’t have a website or blog and many don’t have their own actual search engines and how does the end user actually come to the company whose site receives the traffic from the adware application.  That is where the real issue is.  The traffic has to come from somewhere and an adware application for the most part cannot drive its own traffic.

The traffic has to come from somewhere and an adware application for the most part cannot drive its own traffic.

Adware doesn’t know what the person is looking for or searching for at the current moment the person is searching.  Adware for the most part doesn’t need or does not have a website that recommends a product and gets it’s traffic by activating and stealing from the search engines, newsletters, CSEs and other forms of traffic drivers like referrals, legit Affiliates and social media sites.  Instead adware can only tell what a person is looking for because someone else did the hard work of getting their websites and blogs to rank into the top positions in the search engines, through their newsletters, etc… and the adware then overwrites the tracking cookies and can offer a coupon or discount (With or without a click being made to set the cookie).  Adware can also pop an ad over the merchants website for a competitor’s site or for the Merchant’s own site for the same Merchant which will then take credit for a visitor already on the site and take credit for a sale from a customer already on that Merchant’s website that the Merchant paid for.  Adware can create an ad in between loading the Merchant’s own website for that Merchant’s website which allows it to take credit for a sale for a customer it never referred and so many other ways.  If you’re confused, don’t worry, I am going to share some examples from Affiliate Fair Play that break down how different Affiliate use or have used adware currently and in the past to in my opinion steal from Merchants and other Affiliates.  Now, this isn’t just an Affiliate issue.  The adware comes from somewhere and your media companies and Media Buyers are quite possibly buying this type of advertising as well and doing the same things that Affiliates may be doing.  The only way to tell for sure is to go over your Media list and channel list and look for the known players and then hire a service like Affiliate Fair Play to review your Media Plans and Affiliate program or to hire me or an actual honest firm (these are actually harder to find, especially ones that actually know what is going on and will be honest with you) which I am also happy to recommend over the phone

All of these are very common practices and the sad reality is that because many Marketers are to “uneducated” but make decisions based on ass kissing and terms like opt in.  They forget that “opting in” doesn’t always mean a good, ethical or in some cases legal thing.  Think about it.

In your Affiliate program, did you agree to pay honest Affiliates with organic traffic and not just your company name plus the word coupon code for the traffic and sales they send you?  I believe you did and have a legal contractual agreement with them to pay them for the sales resulting from this traffic.  So when a toolbar Affiliate or Media company comes along and overwrites their cookie without a click being made or the person visiting their own website because of the adware and steals that original Affiliate’s sale, why aren’t you going to pay that Affiliate?  In my opinion you are legally responsible for paying that Affiliate and because the adware is commonly known amongst Affiliates but not Merchant’s because Merchant’s don’t want to hear it, I think we will see more class action lawsuits popping up in the future.  Here is an example video of an Affiliate with Adware overwriting another Affiliates cookie and taking credit for the traffic which could have ended in a sale that the original Affiliate actually sent and in my opinion that Affiliate should get credit but wouldn’t get the credit.  The video is being provided by

Click here for the adware video of an Adware Affiliate overwriting another Affiliate’s cookie.

Besides the fact that the adware in this case and in my opinion is stealing from someone you agreed to pay, it gets worse from a Merchant’s perspective.

If you would catch an Employee stealing from you, you would probably fire them.  Unfortunately in the Affiliate and Media world, because Affiliate Managers and Media Buyers really just don’t get it or do get it and know the Merchant and higher ups won’t catch them because they are not educated on this, and because the companies don’t do their due diligence and their job is to make their channels work, they rely on adware to keep their jobs instead of actually having to work and find a way to make the Affiliate and Media Channel work.

There are plenty of ways to buy media without having to pop ads over your own site (i.e. pay for the traffic and customers you already have) and allow Affiliates to steal from each other and from your own internal efforts (again, paying for traffic and customers you already had).  You also cannot rely on the Affiliate Networks to be honest with you and you especially cannot trust a media company to tell you the truth.  The only way you can find out what is going on is to study and learn about how adware works, test the media and even go a step further and hire someone like Kellie Stevens or use someone’s services like mine that are actually honest with you.

If you are being pitched terms like PPV, Toolbar, Shopping Window, BHO, Interstitial, Pop Ups, Arcade, Couponware, Loyaltyware, Reminderware, Affiliate Syndication, etc… then chances are you may have theft going on

If you are being pitched terms like PPV, Toolbar, Shopping Window, BHO, Interstitial, Pop Ups, Arcade, Couponware, Loyaltyware, Reminderware, Affiliate Syndication, etc… then chances are you may have theft going on and you should really consider doing some research on your own or hiring me or Kellie Stevens to get involved and find out what is actually going on.

Here are some more adware video tutorials from Affiliate Fair Play.

Direct Type in Traffic

Organic Search Results Overwritten

Overwriting other people’s PPC campaigns

Another direct type in

Sending to another site over a direct type in

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2 thoughts on “Adware and Media Buys. Does Opt In Mean it’s OK?”

  1. I completely agree with you Adam that anything whose purpose is to intentionally steal commissions earned by another affiliate or unearned commissions from merchants is unethical and wise affiliate networks should ban them and affiliate managers should remove any affiliate caught using them from their program.

    This is one of the primary reasons I recommended you – because you are able to determine which affiliates are up to no good and keep them out of the merchant’s program and keep them from stealing commissions from sales that belong to another affiliate.

    1. In a perfect world Networks would do their jobs and protect their Merchants and Legit Affiliates and the FTC would focus on companies that can enable theft instead of on disclosures and tracking cookies. Unfortunately certain networks promote and endorse this type of behavior as good under the name contextual publishers and advertisers and many Merchants believe them and fall for this type of behavior.

      The reality is that until Merchants actually educate themselves and realize who their partners are and stop falling for terms like Pay Per View and Opt In meaning good things and the FTC not realizing the larger issues and tax problems that can shut down an industry this will just continue to happen.

      On a good note though some Merchants are now becoming a lot more proactive and starting to educate themselves. This is why when I first talk to a new Client or someone just looking for advice I always recommend they contact Kellie Stevens from Affiliate Fair Play as well. She taught me everything I know and is my main source for finding out new things and new adware applications being used to rip off Merchants and other Affiliates.

      I definitely appreciate all of your referrals and am happy you continue to come back here to read my blog. I am a big fan of yours as well.

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