Ram it Down Your Throat Marketing

Who remembers the Jerky Boys? They were two guys who made a career out of making prank phone calls and recording them. In one of my favorite Jerky Boys routines, they ring up a car dealership in response to a classified ad for an open sales position. The funniest part of the prank call is when the Jerky Boys describe their car sales technique, which involved ramming a consumer's face into the hood of a car and commanding him to buy the car. I laughed hysterically at this. The idea of someone using force to compel someone to buy something was so ludicrous that I had to laugh.

Why do I get the sense that not everybody gets the joke?

Recently, something hacked into my computer. I believe it started when I mistyped the name of a popular website in my browser's address bar. I cleared away the many-headed hydra of pop-ups that resulted, using F4 to close the windows, and I thought everything was fine.

However, the next time I opened up Internet Explorer, I found that my default home page had been changed, I was deluged with pop-up ads, and a new toolbar had been installed on my browser. I went to the Add/Remove Programs control panel on my machine. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary on the list of programs that were installed on my computer. I then changed my default home page back to my personal home page and deleted the toolbar manually.



No dice. Whatever had snuck onto my computer changed my default homepage at every opportunity and continued to spawn pop-ups. My free version of AdAware was unable to remove it. Norton AntiVirus was equally useless. Eventually, after doing quite a bit of online research, I found an application called SpyBot Search and Destroy that managed to kill this malicious app.

"Okay, so the morally-challenged marketers are getting craftier," I thought to myself. But then I saw some of the advertisers who were apparently running with these creeps. Let's put it this way - They weren't the porn or MLM pushers you might expect. There were a few respectable direct marketers mixed in there.

I could think of only three possible explanations for this:

  1. The scammer stole the ads from somewhere, to make himself look more respectable (not likely), or
  2. The advertisers don't care where they get their leads from (also not very likely), or
  3. There are clueless media planners out there somewhere who have no idea where their ads are running. (Most likely)

One would think that any advertiser working with the above-mentioned scammer would experience dismal back-end conversion rates and a pile of e-mail complaints. In any case, I'm amazed and taken aback at the shamelessness of the tactic.

I've also cleaned things off my machine lately that have redirected my browser from sites that I want to visit to other sites containing marketing offers and pop-up ads. Does anyone actually convert on these things when the marketing message is rammed down their throats? Or is this some sort of scam to snag Cost Per Click ad revenue from advertisers?

I think these scams will diminish the value of the medium for the people they infect. A non-tech savvy person who gets one of these viruses is likely to lose interest in the medium if they can't visit the sites they like, or if their computers are damaged by applications that have taken up residence on their hard drives illegally.

I also think that it would help to take away the economic incentive for people to develop such scams. I hate to have to repeat myself, but planners and buyers should always know where their ads are running, and that knowledge will allow them to avoid supporting scams like this.

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