The curious incident of the Dell banner adverts

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

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?