Criteo and Steelhouse legal spat escalates

Legal case between ad retargeting vendors in the US

The legal dispute between ad retargeting vendors, Criteo and SteelHouse, has gone up yet another notch after Criteo filed papers that feature several SteelHouse customers claiming to have been deceived by its rival.

The papers filed on 15 August include sworn testimony from several of SteelHouse’s clients claiming the vendor went against established marketing measurement practices, along with industry expert commentary that Criteo claims demonstrates SteelHouse’s unacceptable industry conduct.

Criteo launched legal action against its ad tech competitor on 13 June in the California District Court, claiming both click fraud as well as a misrepresentation of its services. Specifically, is alleges SteelHouse used a counterfeit click fraud scheme to trick e-tail clients into thinking that Internet users had clicked on SteelHouse-placed ads when they did not. It also claims SteelHouse subsequently took credit for online sales attributable to Criteo and other online marketing vendors as well as e-tail clients’ own direct Internet traffic.

Criteo alleges the practice, which has disadvantaged partners and competitors and which SteelHouse has used to inflate its performance, has been running since at least May 2015. Both companies operate on a pay-per-click model.

In July, SteelHouse filed a counterclaim, alleging Criteo had “resorted to gamesmanship and unlawful tactics” in a bid to both discredit SteelHouse as well as shield its own artificially inflated click count numbers.

“By falsely inflating its click count numbers, Criteo has deceived its own customers, and diverted actual and potential customers from SteelHouse by promising inflated click rates,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Criteo has compounded that behaviour by making false, misleading and malicious statements about SteelHouse, directly to its customers, prior to the filing of any lawsuit. These false allegations have not only caused SteelHouse substantial harm by damaging its reputation in the ad tech industry, but have also resulted in loss of actual and potential clients, and loss of revenue.”

Criteo returned the sally on 25 July, saying it will continue to prosecute SteelHouse and calling the latter’s claims both baseless and a deflection away from its own misconduct.

“SteelHouse’s counterfeit click fraud scheme has harmed and continues to harm both Criteo and the online advertising industry as a whole and should be enjoined,” it stated in its latest documents, filed 15 August.

The question of views versus last-click attribution

Among the latest papers filed are several testimonies from purported SteelHouse and Criteo customers, along with industry experts, supporting Criteo’s claims and criticising SteelHouse’s practices. Several of these refer to SteelHouse’s use of an algorithm to claim impressions and views from end consumers that directly contradicts the last-click attribution model used by many of its former customers.

The declarations of Leah Bliss, a senior specialist in external marketing at Vistaprint, and Elyse Burns, lead for channel marketing at Vistaprint, states that the company worked with both vendors prior to the legal dispute.

In a statement, dated 10 August, Bliss said Vistaprint terminated dealings with SteelHouse after it allegedly discovered SteelHouse had “used malicious code to make it appear as though an Internet user clicked on a SteelHouse-placed advertisement event though no such click occurred”. The practices also contradicted to the last-click attribution model uses to evaluate marketing vendor performance at Vistaprint.

“In its Opposition, SteelHouse asserts that its code was meant to allow SteelHouse to receive credit for ‘view throughs’ or impressions,” the statement reads. “SteelHouse apparently believes it should receive credit for views even though there was no click.”

Another testimony, from paid-for industry expert witness, Hugo Loriot, media technologies director at fifty-five SA, alleges “SteelHouse is manipulating Google Analytics to falsely attribute conversion credit to SteelHouse instead of Criteo”.

“SteelHouse’s manipulation does not allow e-tailers to fairly and correctly use attribution models being applied by Web analytics systems like Google Analytics,” Loriot claimed in his testimony. “SteelHouse’s code is interpreted by Google Analytics as an Internet users clicking on a SteelHouse advertisement, where no such click occurred.”

The hearing on the Motion for Preliminary Injection is up before the Californian District Court on 12 September.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Disruption Down Under – What’s Amazon’s real competitive advantage?

Savvy shoppers wait in anticipation, while Australian retailers are gearing up for the onslaught. Amazon’s arrival is imminent.

Change across the board: Why boards need to digitally evolve

Traditionally the non-executive board of a company acts in an advisory capacity - attending monthly board meetings to offer overarching advice and guidance typically focusing on:

Jodie Sangster

CEO, ADMA

The most desirable customers you’ve overlooked

“What will really move the needle?” This is a question that keeps leaders awake at night. And at the intersection of some of their top priorities – finding pockets of growth, redefining the customer experience, and making an emotional impact – lies a latent market: Their diverse customers.

Being aware of regulations or guidlines is just the start. As our CEO Emma Lo Russo stated exactly two weeks ago at an event we supported...

Alan Smith

​Are the Wild West days of influencer collaboration over?

Read more

Rebranding is always nice solution to get better organisation. Businessman may apply certain special services (for example, https://www.l...

David Hill

CMO interview: Spearheading the global rebranding of OFX

Read more

Thank you so much for sharing this article.Top Digital Marketing company in Bangalore

Way To DM

Predictions: 17 digital marketing trends for 2017

Read more

Thanks for the great article Jodie, agree many boards and senior execs are operating in outdated modes, just as we need some reverse soci...

sharyn

Change across the board: Why boards need to digitally evolve - Data-driven marketing - CMO Australia

Read more

I'm looking forward to Marketo moving toward providing these type of engagement metrics. The vision is there - what happens next to the p...

Emily Dick

Marketo CEO: Stop using outdated metrics, start basing marketing on engagement

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in