Second annual TAB brand safety report finds ad spend on pirate sites decreasing

White Bullet CEO, Peter Szyszko

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), whose mission is to fight criminal activity and strengthen brand safety in digital advertising, has released its second annual report on its anti-piracy initiative, Project Brand Integrity (PBI).

The report found that 86 per cent of brands contacted by PBI in 2022 reduced their ad impressions on pirate sites in Europe when alerted that their ads were running on such sites. As a result, the average monthly ad spend by major brands on high-risk and other sites that infringe on intellectual property (IP) fell by 89 per cent in 2022.

TAG launched PBI in February 2019 in partnership with UK-based anti-piracy and brand safety firm, White Bullet to help advertisers safeguard their brands by alerting advertisers when their ads are found to have run on high-risk and IP-infringing websites. 

PBI builds upon TAG’s Brand Safety Certified Programme, which includes robust anti-piracy requirements for companies. As of March 2023, 127 companies have obtained TAG’s Brand Safety Certified Seal, with 43 per cent of them applying the standard to their global operations. PBI’s direct engagement with advertisers and their agencies also includes other industry and public policy efforts, such as the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Online Advertising and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) facilitated by the European Commission in 2018.

Through the PBI partnership, White Bullet monitors highrisk websites that infringe on IP in the European digital ad markets and provides information to TAG about display ads on those sites. TAG then notifies advertisers (or their agencies) privately and confidentially when a substantial number of their ads run on these sites and provides the advertiser with actionable information and tools to reduce its risk, including participation in TAG’s Brand Safety Certified Programme.

“Criminals hide in the dark, which is why Project Brand Integrity shines a spotlight on ad-supported piracy by alerting advertisers when their ads run on IP-theft sites,” said Jules Kendrick, MD, UK & Europe for TAG. “I’m happy to say that the vast majority of responsible advertisers took action last year when they found out their ads were supporting pirate sites. This demonstrates the effectiveness of PBI’s work and the power of continual education and information to reduce criminal activity in digital advertising.”

The PBI annual report also analysed the state of ad-supported piracy in Europe over the past year. It found that piracy domains continue to relocate, with 76 per cent of websites monitored since 2019 having migrated or changed by redirecting to a different domain. It also found that in-house digital advertising can find its way to pirate sites, as internal spending by advertisers sometimes lacks the anti-piracy tools and standards of agencies. Finally, it found that affiliate marketing can also be a path to ad-supported piracy, as 14 per cent of advertiser impressions on high-risk websites come through affiliate marketing.

“While we’ve made great strides in the fight against ad-supported piracy in Europe, we still have a long way to go,” said Peter Szyszko, Founder and CEO of White Bullet. “PBI’s identify-and-alert model has cut off the money flowing to criminals who profit from IP theft by enlisting the advertisers whose ads are appearing on those sites as allies. Now, we plan to expand that successful model to other regions of the world this year.”