If AzoogleAds actually engaged in fraudulent online ad practices, as the Florida Attorney General’s office has alleged, the company appears to be turning over a new leaf. In fact, AzoogleAds President Don Mathis seems quite engaged in trying to clean up the mobile content promotions sector.
In fact, he wants to work with Truste to develop a program for officially approving promotions for mobile content.
“We approached Truste to [develop] a real certification program,” Mathis told me earlier today when discussing the Florida AG’s big AT&T score. Check out ClickZ’s coverage. The carrier agreed to pay a total of $3 million and ensure partners that charge consumers via AT&T bills abide by new disclosure guidelines in their online ads.
He also said AzoogleAds has been in talks with the Mobile Marketing Association and carriers to establish best practices for ads and promotions pushing ringtones, wallpapers and other mobile content.
“The goal is ultimately to establish a code of conduct for the industry,” he said, adding that in this case it would “have the teeth of the Attorney General behind it.”
The fact is some of these mobile content promotions are used for lead generation purposes. The IAB’s Lead Generation Committee already calls for lead gen companies to follow the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines; those require that companies provide clear and conspicuous disclosure of terms and conditions associated with ads touting “free” promotions.
Mathis believes at least half of the mobile content promotions sector in terms of companies and dollars is connected to bad players using misleading ads to dupe consumers into signing up for things like “free” ringtones that end up costing. “I would say it’s north of 50 percent,” he said.
Rather than simply penalize companies and walk away, the Florida AG’s approach seems like it could actually help clean up the mobile content marketing space. As part of its agreements with Azoogle, World Avenue and now AT&T, it’s required that the companies assist in further investigations. It makes a lotta sense. Not only that, its decision to go after the carriers, the ones that actually facilitate the billing of these fraudulent charges, is intended to cut off the scam artists from their revenue source. Who knows? Maybe it will actually work.
Of course, new fly-by-night operations crop up all the time, making the deceptive stuff hard to keep track of. Still, if the pressure stays on the carriers, it will only behoove them to prevent fraud perpetrators from using their systems for billing.
So, who’s next after the carriers? Look out ad networks, publishers and yes, the likes of Google, Yahoo and MSN – the guys serving the bad ads. Mathis told me there’s “no question” Florida’s Cyberfraud Task Force will consider investigating ad networks.
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