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ValueClick and Zango: Partnerships and Conflicts of Interest

Sometimes I find things in unexpected places and ways. This is one of those times. It also brings home the conflicts of interest that can arise within companies involved in different aspects of online advertising. A friend sent a link over IM the other day for a news article they thought was amusing on the NYPost web site. I clicked through and noticed a pop-up ad being delivered. That wasn’t an unusal occurrence, especially for a content site. As I went to close out the pop-up window, I found an ad which I recognized for SpamBlockerUtility. This is a “free” software application to block spam owned by Zango and bundled with Zango when installed.

My interest is peaked seeing Zango software promoted on a site which has the traffic levels that the NYPost must have. So I right click the banner selecting properties to see who NYPost is partnering with to serve up this ad. My my….FastClick. FastClick of course is now owned by ValueClick and is part of ValueClickMedia. So Zango is running a campaign with ValueClickMedia to promote SpamBlockerUtility, which is a mechanism to install Zango adware on computers. Now let’s think about this one for a moment. ValueClick also owns CommissionJunction as we all know. CommissionJunction supposedly terminated their relationship with 180Solutions (now Zango) a couple of years ago for TOS violations. CommissionJunction’s current Publisher TOS and Code of Conduct does not allow for their publishers to use third party adware. Of ccourse, there are CJ Publishers who advertise through Zango targeting Merchant’s web sites to deliver a forced click of their CJ affiliate link through the Zango pop-up. Some CJ Publisher’s will even go as far as to target the Merchant’s shopping cart page to set their CJ affiliate link, in effect earning an unjustified commission if the consumer completes the sale. Very bad affiliate behavior indeed. So while CJ may have kicked Zango from the CJ network and say CJ publishers are not allowed to run campaigns through adware such as Zango, ValueClick seems to have no problem with having Zango as a client promoting the very software that has been deemed unacceptable within the CJ network. ValueClick seems to have no problem accepting a client through VCMedia which is a platform for fraudulent commissions by CJ Publishers. VCMedia earns revenue from their relationship with Zango on the VCMedia Network. CJ earns fees from advertisers on forced clicks by CJ Publishers through Zango. Advertisers on CJ pay network fees and commissions they shouldn’t have to pay. Other CJ Publishers potentially have their legitimate tracking overwritten by CJ Publishers running campaigns with Zango. The only parties who seem to benefit are ValueClick, Zango and CJ publishers who are violating CJ’s TOS and COC. Let’s not forget it’s Q4 now as well. We have to hope that CJ Network Quality is doing a bang up job of quickly detecting CJ Publisher’s using Zango and putting a stop to the behavior. The big question is how does VCMedia justify accepting a client that they find the business practices to be unacceptable through CJ? I went back and captured the pop-up on video which can be seen here. I apologize if you have to scroll to see the full screen. I forgot to change my screen resolution before making the video.

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