Between a few of us here and my friend Pete in the UK, we’ve spent nearly two weeks trying to get OpenX to work. We’re ﬁnally getting ad-serving technology put in in-house, after years of relying on the US ad networks we primarily work with. It’s also walking the talk: since I have advocated that Wellington moves to open source if I am elected mayor, then it makes sense that our Linux servers are running ads off an open-source ad-management program.
The ﬁrst problem might have been caused by me personally: OpenX wouldn’t install. Pete re-uploaded the ﬁles, we chmoded the directories, and away we went.
Autocade has been the ﬁrst domain to host the ads that we are sending along, and it’s been so far, so good.
However, today we decided to give the home page of the Lucire web edition a go, and encountered a problem.
All was well for the ﬁrst few hours, but then I noticed something strange: two different computers at this ofﬁce were behaving differently with the geo-targeting.
We had fed in banners from two of our US networks. Let’s call them network A and network B. They were set, for New Zealand, to display at these percentages (roughly):
Network A: 98 per cent
Network B: 2 per cent
On computer one running Windows XP, the above was working.
On computer two running Windows Vista:
Network A: 0 per cent
Network B: 100 per cent
I’ve a fair idea of how geo-targeting works and two computers on the same network going through the same router with the same (outward) IP address do not, in theory, behave differently.
But, as Homer Simpson once retorted, ‘In theory, communism works.’
I hope the bofﬁns can explain this one, because usually I have gone against expert advice to get computer hardware working. (The network was hooked up many years ago by yours truly, doing the exact opposite of what the instructions said—after, I might add, the instructions failed. My personal laptop and its Bluetooth connection were hooked up by ﬁnding the most illogical method possible.)
Surﬁng to the OpenX forums (Pete had been on the chat earlier, but no one was around), I tried to log in. Unfortunately, this proved impossible and errors followed:
No one was there at all, presumably due to the database error shown at the bottom of the page:
So, if any OpenX experts are out there and can answer our geo-targeting question, please give us a shout in the comments.
Despite ﬁddling around with all these online ads, there’s one company I know I will never deal with. And it’s not as though the online ad industry has come to us with clean hands, either, so this sullies them further.
After surﬁng on July 10, I found I could no longer get on to Facebook. Every time I typed www.facebook.com, I got the screen below (excerpted):
Which led me to here:
Somewhere along the line, I must have got to a web page that hijacked my web browser. It didn’t alter the hosts’ ﬁle, and I was eventually able to correct this by deleting all cookies and clearing the browser cache, but it left me with one clear message: I will never deal with Mediaplex.
Based on the above, this conduct is highly unethical and is nearly as bad as planting a trojan or a virus on to a user’s computer. And Googling the incident, I found that many others had encountered the same, sometimes when typing in other sites.
I was saddened to ﬁnd out that Mediaplex is part of Valueclick, a company I dealt with for years. We eventually ended our contract with Valueclick. I don’t recall the reason exactly, but I suspect it was down to the low advertising rates the company delivered. There were no concerns over its behaviour.
When I was on the Mediaplex site, I noticed that Commission Junction was part of the same group. We have been asked to join CJ many times during the 1990s and 2000s but always read the terms and conditions. It had something similar to this clause (which is in its current agreement):
Dormant Accounts. If Publisher’s Account has not been credited with a valid, compensable Transaction that has not been Charged-back during any rolling, six consecutive calendar month period (“Dormant Account”), a dormant account fee at CJ’s then-current rate shall be applied to Publisher’s Account each calendar month that Publisher’s Account remains an open yet Dormant Account or until Your Account balance reaches a zero balance, at which time the Account shall become deactivated. Transactions will not be counted if the Transaction subsequently becomes a Charge-back.
In English: if you don’t make a sale over six months, they have the right to charge you. When you pay it all back, they kill off your account.
There’s nothing illegal about that, but considering every other afﬁliate programme we have seen does not do that, then I bet a few people who were less careful about reading their agreements would have been taken by surprise. I found it questionable, and refused to deal with the company. (It seems, if you believe some of the links on Google, that we got off lucky.)
This latest stunt tarnishes the entire group: Commission Junction, Mediaplex and Valueclick. Caveat proponor.