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Protect Yourself the Zango Way

On the plane to the Affiliate Summit, I was reading my January/February issue of Revenue. I was somewhat astounded by some quotes in the Out of Commission article. I’m watching to see if any talk was stirred up in the community over specific quotes. Either I’ve missed the talk or no one is talking about it, so here I go with my own opinions.

What caught my eye were statements by Steve Stratz, Director of Public Relations over at Zango. He said an awful lot in two paragraphs that should speak volumes about the type of company Zango is. I have to admit, his comments did seem to be some of the most honest comments regarding Zango I’ve seen coming from them.

Stratz starts by saying that Zango themselves don’t dilly around with affiliate tracking and cookies (I’m certainly paraphrasing here). That isn’t anything new. We’ve certainly heard that from Zango more than once. And Zango has moved away from being an affiliate themselves for quite some time now. But he followed with a more direct statement regarding affiliate link overwrites and cookie stuffing than I’ve never seen them make:

However, Stratz confirmed that Zango’s terms and conditions with its advertisers does not prevent them from altering cookies or creating pop-up windows that interfere with transactions, and he has no intention of asking them not to.

At last some truth! This is something that many of us have known and recognized, but there has been an awful lot of counter spin on the issue in the past. But there it is straight from Zango’s mouth to your ears. While they won’t interfere with affiliate transactions with their own affiliate links, they will most certainly allow others to do so via their software. It is allowed in the T&C’s and they do not intend to change their policy. I suppose we (as an Industry) should find that more acceptable. I don’t. They admit it is interference with transactions. This is supposed to be better somehow. From a compliance/policing of bad behavior standpoint, it is a lot easier to monitor when it’s just one person (the actual adware company) than when it becomes possibly any affiliate (or merchant or network for that matter) who opens an advertising account with the adware company. Are we to feel better that Zango just provides (and condones) the platform, and hence mechanism, to interfere with transactions? Taking it a step further, does Zango provide further assistance to their advertisers to interfere with transactions? It would seem so according to Zango:

…Zango sells to its advertisers all of the URLs and keywords that are used by its clients to open up pop-ups…

Sells. Nice. And I’ll put aside the issue of just how they arrive at those URLs and keywords to sell to their clients for now. It’s very helpful of Zango to provide their advertisers of a list of URLs and keywords to launch campaigns quickly that interfere with affiliate transactions. I do wonder how many URLs of their own advertisers are on the list they sale. But Zango isn’t finished yet by a long shot. They finish off the above sentence by saying:

 …including pages that open up only when someone visits a merchant’s shopping cart.

Holy shit Batman, Zango’s Public Relations department openly admitting they provide their advertiser’s with Merchant’s shopping cart URLs for targeting. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or be happy they are being more honest about how they operate their business. I wonder if Zango provided the shopping cart list to these guys? Thank-you Zango for providing people even more assistance to poach Merchant’s shopping carts. All is well in the world of online advertising. But they offer more help beyond tagging the Merchant’s shopping cart URLs for you.

Zango’s software will load pop-ups when a trademarked product names appears on a page.

As a merchant if you have vendors who are very conscience about their trademark and how it is used, you may be SOL. Are your manufacturer relationships being put at risk here? The online marketing world again thanks you Zango. I hope that Merchant’s who are advertising through Zango themselves are paying attention to all of this. Why are some Merchants using Zango? Startz saved the very best for last.

He says if companies want to protect their home pages or trademarks from pop-ups, they can always outbid their competitors. “We don’t apologize for the aggressive nature of our ad network,” Stratz says, adding that 200,000 people willingly download Zango software each day.

Thirty thousand feet up in the air of a commuter plane probably wasn’t the best place for me to read that statement. What a nice little racket (and I do use that word intentionally) you got going to pull in more advertisers. The first thing that came to my mind when I read that statement was the schoolyard bully making kiddies pay so that won’t have their lunch stolen. Then I thought no, that was too mild. Businesses paying “protection money” to various unsavories in order to operate without interference seemed more appropriate. When you take statement in context with all the previous things Stratz had just said, why did I feel like I had just gotten a visit from the Sopranos? Has Zango become so entrenched and established in online marketing that this is what they feel comfortable putting out through their Public Relations Department? Is the Industry (as a whole) that accepting and condoning of these types of practices? Is this a model we want for online marketing? Does the online marketing industry not even raise an eyebrow at such statements? I personally do not accept nor condone such practices. Nor do I think it is good for the industry as a whole. Maybe we need a new metric in measuring ad spends to include protecting our web sites. If you haven’t caught on, I was both furious and offended by the comments from Zango. And for the sake of the Industry, I hope I am not alone. And I’ll go further by saying that anyone who is spending their ad dollars with Zango (for whatever reasons), who thinks this is acceptable practices in online advertising and/or who condones any of the above practices are just as much a part of the problem as Zango themselves.

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