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L.L. Bean goes after spyware advertisers where it hurts

By Andrew Pollack on 05/20/2004 at 07:35 AM EDT

L.L. Bean filed suits in a U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine which named two department store chains (Nordstrom and JC Penney) as well as two other mail order companies specializing in supplements and coffee. These firms have advertised with "Gator" -- now called Claria Corporation so that when end users go to the L.L. Bean web site to shop, they are shown pop-up ads in front of the L.L. Bean content for competitive product lines. L.L. Bean are claiming that because the so called "spyware" -- software which installs along with legitimate programs, but about which users are generally unaware -- places these ads on a targeted basis; users are unaware that the ads which come up are not sponsored by L.L. Bean. A recent survey conducted by Sorensen Marketing for United Parcel Service and used in a similar suit found that four out of five users believe a Web site operator gives approval for pop-up ads and almost three-quarters think the site makes money off the ads.

In one such suit, L.L. Bean say the tactic "has usurped L.L. Bean's reputation and customer goodwill and has caused thousands of advertisements to appear over and to obscure L.L. Bean's Web site, forcing L.L. Bean to serve as an involuntary host to Nordstrom's freeloading advertisements." In an article appearing in the Portland Press Herald, L.L. Bean spokesman Rich Donaldson said these marketers are trying to "poach business off the L.L. Bean Web site." He further points out that "L.L. Bean does not and has never employed similar techniques in its marketing efforts. The only pop-ups Bean has used are surveys to ask Web users how they like the site and what improvements they might like to see."

Here's the article in the Portland Press Herald

My Thoughts on this:

At stake here is nothing short of the air space rights over the virtual real estate of our web sites. The tactic of suing the people who buy these specifically targeted ads, knowing that they'll be violating this space is terrific because it hurts companies like Gator who go to great efforts to hide their presence on consumers' machines where it counts -- their bottom line.

Full Disclosure:

Those of you who don't already know should be aware I may have some bias here in that my wife is responsible for information security at L.L. Bean and a significant portion of our family income is either derived directly from that source or else enhanced by savings through their generous employee discount program. I also really like their stuff, enjoy shopping there, and have a previous deep and abiding hatred for spyware companies like Gator in general.

If you want the so-called unbiased version, click here:

There are  - loading -  comments....

I have no such "bias" and agree completelyBy Ben Langhinrichs on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
The idea that competitors can usurp the web site experience of a company is horrifying, yet I see it everyday. When I go to Expedia, popups appear for two or three different competitors. Even I was confused the first time and thought perhaps the two were related. I think it is a despicable practice, and hope that L.L.Bean is able to set some sort of precedent against it.
Spyware should be banned 100%By Alex Wilson on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
I recently just finished cleaning my wifes computer of all the spyware links. She is not very "Internet savvy" and had downloaded and installed numerous free games. Every one of them came with some sort of spyware. I could not figure out where all the network traffic was coming from. The extra traffic from some of the crud on her system caused us to exceed our limits on Starband and they locked my business up for a few days while I assured them it was fixed. Some of the spyware was constantly sending out becons to the mother ship. Spyware, spammers, etc. should be hung out to dry. They are just parasites.
By Vincent Genn on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
I am constantly battling problems on my 'family' PC. Spyware and other intrusive programs on the PC were killing it! My poor wife could not get to eBay because the URL had been redirected to a bogus 'get discounts on eBay products' page. You have to be a rocket scientist (or Andrew) to keep up with the intrusive technology.

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