Who are Vibrant Media, WPP and PointRoll?


Google is one of four advertisers to circumvent Safari’s privacy settings. (Steve White/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
February 17, 2012

Google may be facing the bulk of the backlash over a bit of code that went around Safari’s privacy settings to attach cookies to users’ devices, but it was not the only company to do so. Here’s a quick look at the other companies that used the same tactics.

Vibrant Media: Vibrant Media is known for its in-text ads, aka those double-underlined mouseover ads that pop up in the text of articles on the Web. According to Vibrant, its ads reach 250 million unique users per month working with partners including Microsoft, Unilever, Chrysler and AT&T.

According to researcher Jonathan Mayer, Vibrant — along with Google — purposefully tried to circumvent Safari’s privacy settings. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Vibrant Media said that it used a “workaround” to “make Safari work like all the other browsers” and that it did not collect personally identifiable information.

WPP: WPP is one of the largest advertising groups in the world, earning $7.4 billion in revenue in 2011. There are more than 150 companies in WPP’s group, including advertisers such as JWT and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, as well as policy and lobbying firms such as Burston Marsteller.

The company that is said to have circumvented Safari’s settings is the WPP’s Media Innovation Group, part of WPP’s digital group. The MIG is known for its B3 advertising tool, which lets advertisers track the effectiveness of ads and allocate funds to the most successful ones. The Journal reported that the group declined to comment on Mayer’s research.

PointRoll: PointRoll is a Gannett company, specializing in digital circulars and other “rich media” ads such as videos. PointRoll says that it is the leading rich media advertiser on the Web and works on mobile and Web ads.

Web analytics firm Quantcast estimates that PointRoll powers more than 50 percent of all rich media campaigns online. In a company blog post, PointRoll said that it does not “currently employ” the technique mentioned in Mayer’s research. “PointRoll conducted a limited test within the Safari browser to determine the effectiveness of our mobile ads,” wrote Rob Gatto, PointRoll’s chief executive. “The test did not involve the collection, retention or resale of any specific user information. The limited test ended on February 8, 2012, and we made the decision not to employ this practice further.”

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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