Founded in 2002, Sonos® creates the leading smart speaker system. Once a tech startup populated with nerdy engineers and brilliant designers who love music, Sonos has grown into a global music brand dedicated to transforming the experience of listening out loud to music in the home. Its family of wireless smart speakers and home audio products make it easy for everyone to listen to the music they love in every room of their home.
PerspectivePMA is a performance marketing agency that manages Sonos’ affliate programs for Canada, Australia, and the U.S. For the last four years, David Pricco, Affliate Program Manager, has managed the Sonos account and has used BrandVerity for paid search monitoring.
Sonos’ Evolving Challenge - Then and Now
When David first began working with Sonos, the issue they were facing was ad hijacking (also known as brand poaching, direct linking, or URL hijacking). This is when an affiliate tries to impersonate the brand by running search ads that look identical to the brand’s ads. By using similar headlines, descriptions, and the same display URL, these affiliate hijackers increase the odds that unsuspecting users will click on their ads instead of the brand’s ads. These clicks convert to purchases, which means the affiliate earns 5-10% commission on these purchases. In short, these types of affiliates are stealing money in the form of unearned commissions from brands.
After years of using the BrandVerity Paid Search Monitoring tool, Sonos has virtually eliminated the ad hijacking problem. Now they are focused on keeping the abuse at a minimal level, rather than solving a rampant problem.
Today, Sonos spends more time actively pursuing misuse of coupon codes by affiliates. Since there are many different sales channels and each one uses different coupon codes (internal employee discounts, partner discounts, existing customers, etc.), it’s difficult to keep track of which affiliates post what codes. While Sonos wants to keep certain codes in specific channels, affiliates who run coupon sites want to have the best coupon codes on their site. The BrandVerity monitoring tool looks for inconsistencies and alerts Sonos when a code is posted incorrectly on an affiliate site.
What Does Ad Hijacking Look Like?
To someone surfing the internet and looking at a Search Engine Results Page, ad hijacking doesn’t look any different from regular advertising. It happens when a rogue affiliate creates a paid search ad that is an exact copy of the ad created by the brand. Customers typically have no idea they have clicked on an affiliate ad, and the affiliate is paid commission for conversions that the brand would have captured directly.
Why Is Ad Hijacking Harmful?
Ad Hijacking has several negative impacts including:
- Reduction in brand revenue: Ad hijackers steal clicks, eat into profit margins and gain unearned commissions. Brands lose money when they have to compete with their affiliates for conversions or sales from paid search keywords. Metrics such as impression share and ROI are also affected–the brand’s metrics become skewed and accurate revenue attribution becomes impossible.
- Channel conflict: When the affiliate and the brand are advertising on the same keywords, channel conflict ensues. The search engines will only show one advertisement at a time with the same display URL. As a result the affiliate and brand are competing– and bidding–against one another to be on the SERP. The affiliate is supposed to be bringing new business to the brand, not diverting existing business.
- Messaging conflict: The affiliate’s ad, which visitors think is the brand’s ad, may not match the brand’s messaging. Outdated offers and off-brand messaging are common. Since the search engines only allow an advertiser’s domain to appear once on a given SERP, affiliate hijackers often replace brands’ ads with their own— taking away the brand’s control of their own message.
How Does a Brand Know if its Ads Are Being Hijacked?
Ad hijackers use techniques like geo-targeting and dayparting that make it virtually impossible to find them without the help of an automated paid search monitoring tool. However, three indicators of ad hijacking include:
- Spikes in referral traffic and conversions from affiliates that are not well known to the brand.
- Nearly identical conversion rates for an affiliate and branded paid search.
- The affiliate hijacks ads replace the brand’s ads. Therefore, the brand’s ads will see a reduction in impressions and clicks.
A good rule of thumb is that if the affiliate is not a well known site, or the brand doesn’t have a strong working relationship with them, it’s worth taking a closer look at how the affiliate is driving their traffic.
With BrandVerity Sonos Knows their Brand Is in Good Hands
Sonos has protected its trademark in paid search using BrandVerity’s Paid Search Monitoring for over four years. As Sonos’ brand has grown over time, so has its commitment to protecting its brand. Since BrandVerity’s tool is central to brand protection, it has become an important part of ensuring a smooth customer journey.
In addition to Sonos’ deep commitment to brand protection, Sonos has continued to work with BrandVerity for a number of reasons:
The BrandVerity Paid Search Monitoring tool finds infringements people can’t. Manual monitoring is time-consuming and ineffective because trademark bidders use tactics like geo-targeting and dayparting to evade detection. The BrandVerity tool automatically crawls thousands of web pages, finding infringements that even the most seasoned and crafty marketer wouldn’t be able to find. Once BrandVerity flags the issues, it makes it easy for an affiliate manager to notify the affiliate, partner, or search engine about the violation.
Sonos values BrandVerity’s expertise. David Pricco says he relies on BrandVerity to help him keep all the Sonos channels clear of abuse. But when he finds something through the tool that he can’t explain, or if someone calls him with a question, he knows he can rely on the expertise of the BrandVerity team.
The BrandVerity tool has evolved and improved to meet today’s needs. When Sonos first started using BrandVerity, they were mainly interested in combating affiliate abuse. As BrandVerity has rolled out new products to tackle other forms of trademark abuse, Sonos has adopted those. Being able to continue to deliver value to Sonos by making new products that meet today’s needs has been key to this long-term relationship.
With BrandVerity’s Paid Search Monitoring PerspectivePMA Can:
Save Time: The alerts let paid search managers know when there is a potential problem. David says this is one of his favorite features of the BV tool:
“With the alerts, I don’t have to dedicate so much time to monitoring. I rely on the alerts to tell me when something needs my attention. It’s a big time saver.”
Quickly Get Help Troubleshooting: Sonos knows that if they or PerspectivePMA have a problem or question that they can’t figure out, they can contact the BrandVerity accounts team and quickly resolve the issue.
“I’ve worked with several BrandVerity Customer Success Managers and they have consistently been helpful–not only in tracking down tricky infringements, but also doing extensive research with the help of their analyst team, to get to the bottom of an issue.”
Have Peace of Mind: Brands who use BrandVerity know that it is always working in the background protecting their trademarks and ensuring that everyone is playing by the rules.
“For me, BrandVerity acts as a fire alarm and the fire department. I know that if there is a problem, BV will find it and help me solve it. It’s a huge peace of mind knowing that BrandVerity is on my team.”
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