Joe.ie owner Maximum Media in the manure over ‘click farm’ story

Artificially inflating popularity of online content is against IAB Ireland's charter

The IAB Ireland publishers’ commercial charter makes for interesting reading in light of news that the online advertising body’s board has met to discuss Maximum Media’s use of a click farm in 2017 to inflate the audience for an episode of its since-discontinued podcast Capital B.

The 2018 charter "sets out the standards we will uphold when we deal with our advertising partners", which presumably includes Capital B sponsor AIB. Its pledges relate to privacy, brand safety and highly pertinent topics such as fraud, non-human traffic, reporting and verification.

Click farms, involving groups of low-paid workers employed to boost the popularity of online content, have been overtaken by non-human “bot armies” that can make online transparency a nightmare for advertisers. The charter says publishers will work with industry partners to “identify non-human traffic and exclude it from our reports”.

The charter, which applies to members of the IAB publisher council including the Niall McGarry-owned Joe.ie company Maximum Media, was drawn up with the help of its publisher council members, which again includes Maximum Media.

AIB's deal was brokered by Starcom, a media agency that is part of marketing group Core

Following reports on the 2017 click farm usage in the Business Post, Maximum Media’s chief commercial officer Gillian Fitzpatrick told the Off Message podcast last week that she was shocked to find out about it. “I’m absolutely confident that it was a once-off isolated incident,” she said.

Still, this is an awkward business for both Maximum and marketers charged with getting bang for their clients' buck. AIB's deal was brokered by Starcom, a media agency that is part of marketing group Core, which since the Business Post report has suspended its clients' campaigns with Maximum. "We continue to keep this matter under review," a Core spokeswoman said yesterday.

AIB, through Starcom, earlier this year signed up to put its brand on a new Maximum business video show called All In, which is currently restricted from public view. Perhaps unfortunately given recent headlines, it promised to give its human viewers insights on “how to stay ahead of the competition”.