US government officials charged with enforcing deceptive advertising say that while the ads on Direct Media Exchange ads may be dubious, they may not be bad enough to warrant an enforcement action.
"Any type of advertisement that is likely to deceive consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances could be deceptive," said Rick Quaresima, an assistant director in the US Federal Trade Commission's Division of Advertising Practices.
But the FTC looks at individual ads on a case-by-case basis, he said. And while ads that trick a consumer into visiting a Web site may be annoying, the ones that deceive in order to sell a bogus or harmful product such as malicious antispyware software are a top concern. "We're certainly more concerned with the cases of deceptive advertising that could cause tangible consumer harm or consumer injury. that would be where we would prioritize our enforcement efforts."
These deceptive ads present a dilemma for Right Media, said Washington State Assistant Attorney General Katherine Tassi.
On one hand, Right Media is providing a service to publishers by giving them a way to exclude these ads, on the other, the services do expose "Right Media to some liability for essentially facilitating the transmission of deceptive advertisements," she said.
If Right Media simply dropped this type of filtering, it could make things worse for consumers by inadvertently encouraging unscrupulous advertisers to sneak their deceptive ads into the marketplace.
And enforcement agencies like the Washington State Attorney General are unlikely to hold ad networks, rather than advertisers themselves, accountable for deceptive ads, Tassi said.
One Web publisher said that while he thought that deceptive ads should be banned outright, he appreciated what Right Media is trying to do. "They are very forward when it comes to the kind of filters they allow you to use," said Sanford Liu, director of Interactive with Supernova.com, a music community Web site. "This is something that most other sites do not have."