Operation Creative: reducing online crime

Operation Creative: reducing online crime

Advertising on illegal websites by big UK brands has dropped by 73% thanks to a multi-industry initiative, Operation Creative.

The operation is a joint effort with advertising and media bodies, including the IPA, and the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU)

Hurray for that.

Online ads are one of Operation Creative’s main targets as a generator of criminal profits. The Digital Citizens Alliance estimates that in 2013 alone piracy websites generated $227 million from ads.

This is something the police are keen to minimize for 227 million obvious reasons.

At the launch of Operation Creative the Infringing Websites List (catchy title) was also launched to aid in the identification of dodgy websites.

What do advertisers get out of this?

It’s not just the warm fuzzy feeling of a good deed.

Websites on the IWL (e.g. for online piracy) are bad for brands, business and consumers.

When people see a big brand on a website, any site, it lends a sense of credibility. Even in an ad. This is a boon for small, legitimate sites, and benefits the brand too. But when a site also links to malware and viruses (as 46% of ads on illegal sites do), the brand and the consumer both lose out.

While Operation Creative focuses on UK advertisers, the effects can be seen all over the world, as you might expect.

Nigel Gwilliam, IPA Consultant Head of Media and Emerging Technology, said: “Working with PIPCU, rights holder groups and our fellow advertising associations we are very proud to have been part of this hugely successful, internationally ground breaking initiative”

Advertising for change

This isn’t the first time that advertisers have been effective in withdrawing their support from notorious websites.

In 2013 the suicide of 14-year-old Hannah Smith prompted a public backlash and advertiser exodus from Ask.FM.

The site allows users to ask and receive questions from anybody in the world. The problem was that anonymous bullying was possible, with no way of tracing the perpetrators.

The negative publicity already generated by the tragedy was heightened, and online safety features highlighted, when advertisers got involved by withdrawing support.

The Everyday Sexism campaign prompted response and policy change from Facebook by contacting advertisers about the content Facebook had served their ads alongside.

Advertisers are becoming more wary of where their online ads get served, and it’s set to have a powerful effect on what exists on the web. And mostly for the better.


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