The curious incident of the Dell banner adverts

The curious incident of the Dell banner adverts

Summary: What happened to the Dell ads on the Pirate Bay Web site?

TOPICS: Dell, Banking, Telcos, Optus

Banner adverts for Dell and Optus were appearing on the Pirate Bay Web site earlier this week -- until ZDNet Australia published a story revealing the fact.

On Wednesday, looking through the worlds largest BitTorrent Hub, which is the PirateBay Web site, any search was surrounded by banner adverts for products as diverse as human pheromone sprays, dating agencies, notebook computers from Dell and even an AU$59 calling plan from Optus.

The PirateBay is commonly used for sharing potentially illegal content such as music, movies and software. Recently the site was offline for a few days after Swedish police raided the company's server room.

Earlier this year when banner adverts for the NAB and St George Bank appeared on the site both companies were horrified. They put their hands up and admitted this was a serious issue. It seems that third-party media buying agencies were responsible for the rogue adverts.

Initially we thought they must be phishing lures but antivirus firm Sophos investigated the site and found the adverts to be genuine.

Both companies eventually admitted that the adverts had appeared because of mistakes made by their respective media buying agencies.

Now, just a few months later, banner adverts for computer manufacturer Dell and Australia's number two telco, Optus have made an appearance.

Curiously, they disappeared shortly after the ZDNet Australia story was published.

On Friday afternoon an Optus spokesperson said: "It (the advert) appeared on the Web site. As soon as we were notified it was cancelled and removed".

When asked if the problem occurred because of a third party media buying agency, the spokesperson said: "I don't comment on internal procedures".

Dell has not been so forthcoming.

The computer manufacturer's corporate communications manager Paul McKeon told ZDNet Australia that the company has no idea how or why the adverts appeared on the Web site.

Despite being sent screenshots of the adverts - for a Dell Inspiron 6400 notebook -- the company issued the following statement:

"At Dell we hold ourselves to standards of ethical behaviour that go well beyond legal minimums, including in our advertising. We accept the consequences of our actions, admit mistakes if they occur and quickly correct them -- that's part of our code of conduct. But as yet we have found no evidence of the advertisement ZDNet has referred to".

When questioned about the 'evidence' sent to Dell in the form of two screenshots -- available here and here -- McKeon said: "You have the screenshot and you have sent it through to me but until I can actually click through to it and find out where it links to then we can't go any further and investigate until we find it ourselves, if you know what I mean".

Scanning through the site on Friday afternoon the Dell and Optus adverts had vanished -- along with any adverts for Australian companies.

So who or what was responsible for the adverts appearing and then disappearing?

Who paid for them?

Dell seems to have no idea.

Do you?

Topics: Dell, Banking, Telcos, Optus

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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  • NAB ads show up everywhere

    I was browsing Astalavista the other night and I saw an ad for the Nab card with Velocity points, NAB should really watch out what it does with its ads.
  • So what ?

    What's wrong with companies advertising on Pirate Bay ?
    It's a very popular website, people love it... so where's the problem ?
  • Dell + Optus Ads

    This basically happens when their online media agency buys inventory with a 3rd party ad repping company. This company will represent dozens or even hundreds of sites where it will sell ad space in specific locations, or just run of network ads - which means they can appear anywhere, any time, and you have no control. This space is usually extremely cheap, as it's not targeted to a specific audience, but the large volume of traffic / impressions it receives usually means it's a cost effective media investment.
  • Targetpoint

    Recently in the news has been the shadowy involvement of the Israeli ad company Targetpoint. While Targetpoint refuses to acknowledge any ownership several blogs have reported their either purchasing a share of several torrent sites or involved in financing.

    It is pure speculation at this point to say that they are responsible for the ads but there is a good chance this is so. There seems to be some disappearing funds into offshore tax havens that no one can account for where it goes.
  • Conspiracy bollocks

    Yeah, better not post your name or the Mossad will come and get you. Idiot.