Y’all ever click this sucker? If you did, you likely saw a totally different product than I did. That was the scam — it was an advertising frontend that could be rented by anyone with a diet product.
And some very dodgy companies lurked behind it, too. The Washington Post traced it down a couple of years ago (which was only right, since the Post was one of dozens of ‘respectable’ sources that ran the ad). Most of these scams demanded your credit card details before sending “free” samples — later followed by regular, hard-to-cancel shipments of expensive products.
And needless to say, there was no “one weird trick.” I clicked the ad hoping to squeeze a post out of it, and was whisked away to an audio presentation which warned me up front to listen all the way to the end for the one weird trick. And then droned on and on about “I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to lose weight. My wife and I were very concerned that being overweight would affect our health, and we had children to worry about.” In its way, it was a masterpiece of utterly contentless chatter. I wish I’d hung on to see how long they could keep that up, but I’m not entirely sure the damn thing didn’t sneakily loop back on itself.
After half an hour, I lost it and closed the page…and got the entirely predictable series of breathlessly panicky pop-ups offering me specials and freebies and warning me I was turning my back on the offer of a lifetime. I have no effing idea what they were selling.
Thing is, this thing ran for months and months. Remember? It ran in the LA Times and the Washington Post and dozens of other places I visited, and I can’t help but think it succeeded so well because no-one could believe an out-and-out con would show its face in so many respectable places.
Eventually, the FTC shut down the marketers behind the front end. But, honestly, I don’t see how Google (the ad server) could be so casual about the company it keeps. And I don’t understand why papers like the Post and the Times weren’t up in arms about the hit to their reputation.
Having said that — ahem — I’d practically forgotten I had sidebar ads until I got a message from AdBrite tonight telling me they’re going out of business at the end of the month. So, ummm…if my spotless reputation has been used to sell you bath salts and Russian hookers, I’m really very sorry. I’ll stop doing that as soon as I feel like digging around in my sidebar code and extracting the ad dingus.
Until then…errr…I wouldn’t click on anything over there.
January 28, 2013 — 11:42 pm