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AiThority Interview with Tom Chytil, Business Intelligence Director at White Bullet

Welcome to our AIThority Interview Series. Firstly, congratulations on your new role. What’s your main focus in this position?

My main focus is investigating the data we collect from the pirate websites and apps we detect and risk score, and identifying advertising insights that we track on them to help support the needs of our external and internal stakeholders. These insights are used to show our clients and policymakers the scale of ad-funded piracy and the impact of enforcement activity on fighting it. But they are also used for broader market education and supporting our team when they’re engaging with concerned and interested parties.

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Is the data highlighting ad-funded piracy or showing it’s being tackled? 

It’s both. The data shows the scale of the problem while also acting as a tool to demonstrate the enforcement impact. For example, we help regulatory bodies reach out to brands to raise awareness of their ads funding piracy, and help these bodies understand the effectiveness of their outreach activities. If the data suggests it’s having little impact on persuading brands not to advertise on pirate websites and apps, they can adapt their outreach strategy. But if it shows it’s working and brand ads are disappearing from these pirate websites and apps, they can scale it and do more outreach.

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How can brands most effectively use the data you have?

The data gives them crucial information about which partners are placing their ads on IP-infringing websites and apps. If they have an affiliate marketing strategy, for example, we can identify which of their affiliates are responsible for misplacement, and the brand can take the necessary action.  

While the data provides evidence of the problem, it can’t fix it directly. Brands must act on this data while also implementing safeguards to prevent their ads appearing on IP-infringing websites and apps. For example by taking action against rogue supply chain partners that misplace their ads, or refusing to pay for ads on inappropriate websites and apps that put the brand’s reputation at risk. Working with TAG-certified partners who are under a duty to protect brands as part of the broader TAG brand safety programme, is an obvious starting point so they can be assured their partners uphold industry-accepted standards.

Some brands believe that just using static industry lists to identify piracy to avoid is enough, but it’s not. While helpful, these lists are tiny, often do not include risky apps, and don’t get updated frequently so become out of date very quickly and offer low protection levels. 

This is why our work with regulators and industry stakeholders is so important for market education and putting pressure on the brands to act to protect themselves and consumers.

Is everyone in the industry taking this issue as seriously as they should?

Sadly not, and it’s often sector dependent.

VPN providers, for example, aren’t overly-concerned as these IP-infringing websites allow them to reach one of their target audiences – users who may not want to reveal their real location as they are aware the websites are infringing or risky or to get around website blocking by ISPs. 

Many people are often unaware they’re on a pirate website, and the reason for this may be the presence of advertising: when websites carry ads from major brands, they gain a level of legitimacy in the eyes of consumers, who can fail to recognise them for what they are. It’s another reason why brands need to act. By starving the advertising, brands starve the pirates of revenue and credibility. In losing money and audience, these websites can’t survive.   

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What can be done to speed up tackling this issue? 

It’s a question of resources. More industry bodies need to get involved and more people committed to the outreach process.

Using the data to identify which brands to approach, researching the best contacts to target, compiling and sending them the evidence weekly and following up is a time-consuming process. And often it’s difficult to get brands to respond. Having multiple bodies engaging in outreach allows more brands to be targeted. For those companies appearing regularly on reports, directing pressure on them from different entities will give them a greater sense of urgency to act.

Ad tech vendors have a major part to play, and we’re now working with real-time bidding platforms that place ads programmatically at scale. By allowing these platforms to plug into our data, they can check the URLs they’re targeting in real-time to identify if they are a risk and then stop ads from being placed in IP-infringing environments. This will have a significant impact on choking off advertising to pirate websites.

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So, we’re making headway in the fight against ad-funded piracy?

Thanks to the data, we are. And we’re seeing real progress from the brand outreach. 80% of engaged brands have reduced the impressions they are serving on pirate websites, and of these, 40% have cut them back by 99%. We have seen examples of automotive brands that were serving millions of monthly impressions to IP-infringing websites reduce this to zero.

Yes, there’s a way to go, but the data, the outreach, and the commitment of all sections of the industry are having an impact, so the future looks positive – unless you’re a pirate website.   

Thank you, Tom! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

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We offer AI risk scoring software to keep you compliant online. Brands, Advertisers, Regulators and IP Owners trust our data to make informed decisions about their online safety.

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