Tricking People With Fake Content Isn't Good Advertising

from the that's-sleazy dept

One of the things that gets people upset when we talk about advertising being content, and content being advertising is that they think this means advertisers tricking users into viewing their ads. That's not true at all. It should be totally upfront. People who pass along a cool commercial are doing it because they know exactly what it's advertising and they know that it's still cool. The idea is to create content that's so good that even though everyone knows it's advertising, they don't mind. If you have to "trick" people into viewing your ad, then it's bad content.

Witness, for example, this story from Wired, about a company advertising a "work from home" scheme. To advertise it, they built a series of fake news sites that look incredibly realistic -- just look at this example from a site called News5Alert or The Miami Gazette News, that look an awful lot like real news sites. As Karl notes, they even show that the "comments are closed due to spam."

But the whole thing is fake. It's really an ad. And, to make it worse, the company behind it is taking out ads on real news sites and trying to make it look like news -- thereby tricking people into reading their ad. The whole scam is to get people to sign up for info on how to make money from home -- for which they're charged $2... but then suddenly many claim they started finding additional "surprise" charges on their credit card, which the company says they actually agreed to in the fine print. That's an old scam, but using real-looking news articles is the new twist. So, while content is advertising, misleading or sneaky advertising is bad content.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    barrenwaste (profile), Jun 29th, 2009 @ 11:00pm

    content is advertising

    I used to be Q.A. for an insurance sales company. Many detest these companies and thier methods, employee's included. That said, one of the things I did like about that company is that every transaction was closely scrutinised and if there was any doubt that the customer knew what he or she was doing or purchasing, then the transaction was canceled. Now, this wasn't advertising, but if even telemarketers and insurance companies agree that tricking your customers into purchasing things is bad, well then, it must be something pretty awful indeed. I don't know if legal action should be taken for merely having the sites up, but those tricked should have legal options if they can't get thier monies back.

     

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  2.  
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    Joshua, Jun 29th, 2009 @ 11:11pm

    News 5 Altert is Mysteriously Gone

    The link for the News5Altert site is dead. I guess they don't want too many people finding about the super secret way to earn money from home.

     

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  3.  
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    Brandon St. Randy, Jun 29th, 2009 @ 11:47pm

    Agreed!

    And as a consumer of "entertainment product", I should just butch up and pretend that I don't love it when they...

    Um, what was the question again?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:00am

    That this needs to be pointed out may indicate why advertising is so ineffective in this day and age...

     

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  5.  
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    Time Traveller, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:13am

    I like how "mikey" in the comments of the Miami one posted his comment over 5 hours in the future. It is 3:12 am, and he posted at 8:45 of June 30th. So they must have a script to make it look like the posts are recent.

     

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  6.  
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    Time Traveller, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:14am

    I mean, it could be time zones too, but I got a laugh out of it.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:17am

    Re:

    It's called a difference in time zones.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:22am

    Re:

    His posting software also autoposts at different times. You can figure out if he's awake if you're on his IM/chat list. Another way is to just call his 1-800 number, or text him and see if he answers. There are a few ways to keep track of Mikey.

     

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  9.  
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    Pete Austin, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:22am

    Similar Example

    "International furniture chain Habitat has fallen foul of online advertising standards by unscrupulously abusing Twitter hashtags in order to promote its online products ... including hashtags in its tweets such as #Iran and #Mousavi (relating to Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a leading candidate in Iran’s recent presidential elections). One tweet read: “HabitatUK: #Mousavi Join the database for free to win a £1000 gift card,” according to Sky News Online. Twitter followers were outraged at the “scum” at Habitat for such flagrant spamming tactics and moral insensitivities."
    http://www.directtrafficmedia.co.uk/News/Habitat_Make_a_Hash_of_Iran_on_Twitter_9 62331057184.html

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:24am

    Re: Re:

    Ooooh. That Mikey. Hah! I just pay the neighbor to broadcast a live web feed of their yard. Best damned $20 a month money can buy.

    LOL!

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:34am

    Re: Similar Example

    God Damn. Thank god I'm not British. I'd be ashamed of myself.

    Someone needs to call the Waaaaambulance

     

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  12.  
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    Trippa, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:48am

    ...Hidden message

    If you look up the top of the page right under GAZETTE NEWS, the following is written behind the line:

    This publication is an article advertisement for Easy Google Profit

    lol.

     

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  13.  
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    mark, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:59am

    I see so many advertisements that involve trickery through direct mail and spam that I suspect the success rate is high enough to mitigate the "sue the bastards" reflex. Especially since most of us just tear it up and throw it away.

     

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  14.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 5:31am

    How about Responsibility?

    If we want an unregulated internet, how about some of the companies taking responsibility for what is put out for public review. Let's face it, if companies put forth misleading information to get you in the door, they probably aren't reputable anyway.

    If companies are not willing to exhibit some degree of self-control, I would have no aversion to the "evil" regulators stepping in and fining companies that pursue/allow misleading advertising.

     

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  15.  
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    Rob, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Re: How about Responsibility?

    Umm... from the sounds of it, I don't think that this company is trying to "get you in the door at all", it sounds more like they are getting you to stop and talk to you and then picking your pocket. Or to put it more simply, I don't think that we are talking as much about a business as an out and out scam here, it does not seem that they really offer any sort of services whatsoever other than whacking a lot of people with the initial $80 fee. If there is only a few people involved in the upstream end of this and they nail a few thousand victims (which is entirely plausible, it is easy to forget how many extremely gullible people there are out there), this could turn them a pretty tidy profit. I am not sure where the law stands on blatant manipulation such as this, but I am sure that something can, and quite possibly will, be done. I am sure that AT LEAST something can happen in civil court if they have deceived a large number of people.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 8:51am

    An example of a site http://www.news3news.com/fxoz.html
    It's a complete sham and they seem to be rotating sites. This is highly suspect if you click any of the links or read the fine print, but they are hoping you don't notice.

     

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  17.  
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    shogun worrier, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:53am

    Tricking People With Fake Content Isn't Good Advertising

    if this was a piece of entertainment, a rabbit hole into an arg, you would be praising it as genius and so real that no one got it until they were invested in the story... seems the real problem is that the company is picking your pockets, selling a product you don't want or need, as opposed to entertaining you and asking you if you wanted their product later. so the line is whether you want what they're selling, not that they're selling something. this same "work from home" scheme has been going on for 20+ years in one form or another.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Why get all excited about these websites? You don't have to go any further than the infamous "free credit report dot com" people to see a major league piece of misleading advertising, apparently just well enough couched not to get the FTC upset. Their ads are all about the free, which you CANNOT GET until you enroll (monthly recurring charge) for credit reports that you can get directly from the credit reporting companies yourself.

    How many people do you think get tricked by that?

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2009 @ 9:55pm

    News5Alert seems to be some sort of search engine, not an ad or a news site or either disguised as the other.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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