eBay's Advertising Gremlins Want You To Buy Steve Irwin's Death

from the oops dept

For years, Overture (now a part of Yahoo!), used to say that Google's contextual ad matching might be a problem in cases where the text alone didn't provide the right context. They used an example of a news article about someone being stabbed, where Google would supposedly show contextual ads for knives. It was never clear if this was a real example, or something simply made up by Overture's marketing team, but it was mentioned so often that many people assumed it was fact. Whether or not it was true, the Register is pointing to an example that shows these types of problems can happen. Following the news that Steve Irwin (aka "The Crocodile Hunter") was killed this weekend by a stingray, plenty of people searched the internet for news of his death. It's quite likely that many did searches on Google, where apparently at least some were shown an ad offering the ability to "buy Steve Irwin Dead on eBay." This isn't the first time we've seen ridiculous eBay ads, where they clearly are substituting the search term for a wildcard, but it does seem particularly bad in a case like this. You would think that words such as "death" or "dead" would be on the blocked list... but apparently not in this case.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Sep 2006 @ 1:15pm

    False Advertising

    so... Can I sue ebay for a false advertising when I discover that they are not actually willing to sell me a dead steve irwin?

    Would the courts require them to fulfill the first 10,000 sales like they used to do to the airlines?

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Sep 2006 @ 1:20pm

    of all the things...

    that killed that nut it was a stingray...

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

  3. icon
    chris (profile), 5 Sep 2006 @ 1:54pm

    it's true...

    you really can buy anything on ebay.

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

  4. identicon
    Decius, 5 Sep 2006 @ 2:09pm

    Black People

    Reminds me of the old "Buy Black People on Ebay" gag years back...

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

  5. identicon
    Just me, 5 Sep 2006 @ 2:14pm

    If you look on Ebay, there was hardly anything listed before September 4th regarding Steve Irwin. On September 4th there were over a thousand new items and things releated.

    It is crazy....

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

  6. identicon
    Mr.Obvious, 5 Sep 2006 @ 2:28pm

    Seems there will always be people wanting to make a buck off of someone elses death.Just like when Dale Earnhardt died there was so much shit of his on ebay the market was over flooded with his merchandise from dumb ass people trying to make a buck.I still can't belive a damn Stingray of all things got him.I was sure it was gonna be either a Crock or a Snake get him one day.But he was a funny character that I couldn't stop watching.

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

  7. identicon
    Net Grifter, 5 Sep 2006 @ 2:31pm

    Double Standards As Usual

    I can not tell you the countless Google and Yahoo PPC ads that I have had rejected due to the content not meeting their standard for the term I selected. Their reviewers are like the gestapo - 1 degree different than the keyword and they drop your term. However Amazon and Ebay (as well as MANY others) get away with non relevant search term purchasing every day. It sickens me.

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

  8. identicon
    Republican Gun, 5 Sep 2006 @ 2:59pm

    Too Late! Wacko Jacko Bought it

    Bahrain - Michael Jackson has now bought Steve Irwin's dead body off of Ebay. When asked what he plans to do with it, Michael replied that it he would use the body parts to help him become strong enough to fight the dangerous crocidiles in Never Never Land.

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

  9. identicon
    ®idiculous ©rap, 5 Sep 2006 @ 3:50pm

    Re: Double Standards As Usual


    so, eBay's adwords are dynamically(?) generated and truly tatseless, while Joe Average businessman like me gets his ads rejected, willy-nilly. The adwords goons usually can't even provide me with a semi-plausible explanation about why one ad was arbitrarily rejected while its body-double was approved.

    Too much room for interpretation, I presume.

    ...or, maybe the problem is coming too close to "the line" when the best strategy is to just go WAY over the line.

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

  10. identicon
    Ensign Pike, 5 Sep 2006 @ 3:56pm

    Bad ad strategy

    I will occasionally click on ads when searching google (especially when I'm looking to buy something) but I never hit the ebay ads for precisely this reason. It's obvious that it doesn't matter if it's available or not, therefor they are all suspect.

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

  11. identicon
    VPR, 5 Sep 2006 @ 4:15pm


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

  12. identicon
    Some Jerk, 5 Sep 2006 @ 5:15pm


    Any sane and reasonable person would understand that there are a few simple lines of code that causes "buy [your search term] on ebay" and recognize that it is a reasonable advertising system.

    Contextually figuring out if something can or cannot be purchased on ebay is an impossible task that such simple advertising gremlins are not equipped to undertake. Nor can they determine if it is "inappropriate". Does this mean that they should destroy the system altogether? Of course not.

    Any sane and reasonable person knows that what they search for is fair game to promote advertisements based on the search term.

    If I search for "area man stabbed to death" I would expect to see ads for knives just as much as I would expect to see ads for knives if I searched for "how to stab someone to death like a green beret". Maybe I have a stalker and I'm learning self defense, in which case I might appreciate the ads for knives. In the former case, it wouldn't make sense but it would be reasonable and expected and I'm too smart to take offense.

    Of course, I hate all advertising and think the world would be a better place if it were all abolished, but I know that's unreasonable. I also know that trying to use AI to determine if rewording your search term into an advertisement is "inappropriate" is far too subjective and impossible.

    Anyone who complains about this is too stupid to use the Internet. Any company like Overture that attempts to exploit this flaw in the system is simply acknowledging to advertisers that they refuse to use established, working methods of promotion due to the fear of offending a few idiots and I wouldn't want to advertise with them, so they're just hurting their own business.

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

  13. identicon
    lokicat, 5 Sep 2006 @ 6:06pm

    yahoo makes stab at steve irwin dead buys

    Do a yahoo search for "steve irwin dead" and you'll get a result where they try to sell the dead steve irwin to you.

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

  14. identicon
    John, 5 Sep 2006 @ 6:38pm


    I think that it is time that Google be knocked down a notch or two...I don't like it when people overstep their bounds...like Streisand talking politice...she is a singer, just shut up about politics and sing. Same with that worthless slob, Alec Baldwin...I am not necessarily a "Bush Lover" (well, I love bush) but some people need to just do their job...and shut up. My point is, do a Google search for "failure" and look at the first result. You think some chucklehead at Google didn't have a part in this. It's too bad that we don't swing the "big stick" a little more often...such as in Iraq...we could have ended that shit 2 months after it started...just too many appeasers!

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

  15. identicon
    D'oh!, 5 Sep 2006 @ 11:17pm

    Other ebay hi-jinks

    Try googling "whores" or "mexicans" and see what you can also buy from eBay.

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

  16. identicon
    Shaina H, 12 Sep 2006 @ 2:54pm

    Trying to male money

    You know what who ever is trying to make money that is just wrong. how would you like it if someone in your family died and they were trying to sell there stuff you would not like that now would you. Steve was looked up to by many kids, and adults and his death was a terrible thing. And i know that i will never forget Steve or his family.so i think the people trying to sell suff should be stopped! There has to be some way to stop them.

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

  17. identicon
    jack, 7 Oct 2007 @ 12:33pm

    how/where can i buy one now? please responed

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

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