I’ve written often about affiliate marketers who use advertorials and farticles (advertisements designed to look like news articles) in their never-ending hunt for clicks and commissions. It’s an ongoing plague, but one that seems to have become an inextirpable part of the internet landscape.
As annoying as it is, this technique is not new. Here, an example from the Iowa City Daily Press from 16 May, 1905 (page 2). The snippet below is from a section of the paper entitled “News In Brief” and shows two advertisements shoehorned into the section dedicated to short news articles:
It just goes to show that historically, the journalistic drive to ethically bring the news to people has always been intermingled with a desire to earn as much revenue as possible, regardless of how it’s done.
In today’s world, the mad rush for clicks, eyeballs on ads, and sales conversions has turned the Internet into a wild west of unreliable or downright deceptive pages and advertisements, and it’s a true challenge to sift and sort the wheat from the tares. Teaching kids how to tell one from the other would be a valuable class in any high school or college.
I’ve written before about affiliate marketing, and what a plague it is on the internet. I just had a tab pop up on my browser – despite two ad-blockers being active – and I thought I’d share an image or two.
Health experts recommend losing between 1-2 pounds a week for healthy weight release. This claim amounts to close to 1 lb per day. Ain’t gonna happen, unless you’re eating 500 calories per day and burning 3,500. In addition, this claim is not backed by Fox News (as disreputable as they may be in other areas), the NY Times, Today, Oprah, Style Watch, or Redbook.
This is not going to happen in 22 days. Look, children, this is what we call “a lie.”
Limited time only: Lie Only 4 Bottles Still Available: Lie 40% discount: Negated at the purchase page. Offer ends Today: Lie
Let’s look at the purchase page:
This page claims to send you free bottles: Lie Only 241 promotions left: Lie Endorsements: Lie Lose weight without exercising: Lie
So if you want that free product and provide your information (which, by the way, will be sold to every marketer with two coppers to rub together), you get this:
Oh look, you’re being charged $59.95. That’s not free, nor is it the 40% discount promised on a previous page. And if you don’t notice that the 6-bottle option is checked, the charge on your credit card is going to be horrendous.
But wait, there’s more!
Buried deep on the purchase page in light gray print is the link to “terms and conditions,” which very few people will bother to read. If they do, they’ll find a wall of text, which includes these hidden gems (there’s a lot more of it)
Terms SCOPE & APPLICATION 1.1 You expressly agree and accept the Conditions set forth herein unconditionally as a binding contract (“the Agreement”) enforceable by law… (How well this load of BS would stand up in court is an open question)
PRODUCT AND BILLING 2.1 All product purchases made from this website are required to be paid in full. For more information about our products, please visit http://www.ketopurediet.com. 2.1.1. The prices for the products are as follows: $199.99 or $28.57 each for the 7 bottle package;$149.95 or $29.99 each for the 5 bottle package; $99.99 or $33.33 each for the 3 bottle package and $69.99 each for the 1 bottle package, plus $7.95 shipping and handling. Shipping and handling is non-refundable. 2.2 You authorize us to initiate a one-time charge to your credit card as indicated upon your purchase. (So, not free at all)
This next one is a real treasure:
Notice that if you stop ordering this product, you have just given permission for monthly dues to some worthless program to be charged to your credit card, and nothing is ever said about how much those monthly dues are until you’ve bitten the hook.
There’s a lot more legal noise in those terms and conditions, which mostly assure you that the company has all rights and that you have very few.
But what about the product itself? Is it any good? will it work? Wow, it’s so easy:
The ketogenic diet has been around for a long time. There is a massive body of information out there about it, some positive and some negative. While the marketeers would have you believe that exogenous ketones (i.e. the stuff that comes from outside your body) can put you into a state of ketosis in minutes, that’s highly debatable. So if you want to release weight with a ketogenic diet, follow step 2 above (but be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any program of this nature.) Step 1 can be safely replaced with:
Singing opera 10 minutes a day
Painting with Bob Ross
Learning to speak Turkish
Taking homeopathic weight loss drops
Not taking homeopathic weight loss drops
Standing on your head and spitting nickels
… and you’ll get exactly the same results, whatever those are.
The Internet is awash with pages like this, because most affiliate marketers will say absolutely anything to get you to buy the product, for which sale they get a commission. And most affiliate marketers have the ethics of an angry honey badger.
Don’t be taken in by “offers” like this from sleazy, irresponsible salespeople. Stay away from any product that claims to help you lose weight fast.
I write regularly about scams and frauds on the Internet, in the hopes that some folks might stumble across my thoughts and save themselves both money and hassles. I’ve given extra attention to nutritional products, otherwise known as “Snake Oil.”
People use the Internet for accessing all sorts of knowledge, but the landscape has become so deceptive that it can be difficult even for experienced searchers to separate fact from fiction, wheat from chaff.
Here’s an example. My handheld device doesn’t filter out ads the way uBlock Origin or AdBlock Plus does with Chrome on a desktop, so I regularly see all sorts of deceptive garbage while I’m browsing.
One ad showed a picture of Stephen Hawking, with the claim that he owes his massive intellect to a specific supplement. So down the rabbit hole we went, and was taken to a page flogging “Intellux,” a supposed “smart drug” or “nootropic” compound, said to enhance memory or other cognitive functions.
The next thing I did was to search for (intellux fraud | scam), and it’s interesting to note that almost every result is either
a page that asks “Is Intellux a scam or the real thing” and then goes on to flog the product itself, or
a page that lists in detail all the reasons why Intellux is a worthless fraud – and then goes on to flog another product.
A good example of this is “The Supplement Critique.” This page and this page are examples of what look like fair and balanced reviews of Intellux, Geniux, and Addium/Adderin. They describe in detail the mechanisms of advertorials, affiliate marketing, false tweets, totally fabricated stories and “user feedback,” and the general deceptive marketing techniques. It all looks perfectly legitimate – until you get to the point where the author begins flogging “Optimind,” a nootropic supplement for which he is suspiciously looking like an affiliate marketer.
Popups are pretty nasty, but a lot of pages use them – this is what I got when I explored The Supplement Critique:
“No thanks, I like being stupid.” Well, that’s a great way to get people to feel guilty about not buying your e-book, which is doubtlessly tailored to guide people to the worthless snake oil that you yourself are peddling.
The fact remains that these pages are slick-looking enough to fool a lot of people into thinking they represent real science and real research, when in reality it’s all woo – smoke, mirrors, and pay no attention to that little man behind the curtain.
Just last February the Washington Post and others reported on a New York State investigation into adulterated or worthless “herbals” being sold by GNC, Target, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens. Among the findings:
The investigators tested 24 products claiming to be seven different types of herb — echinacea, garlic, gingko biloba, ginseng, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort and valerian root. All but five of the products contained DNA that was either unrecognizable or from a plant other than what the product claimed to be.
Additionally, five of the 24 contained wheat and two contained beans without identifying them on the labels — both substances are known to cause allergic reactions in some people.
It has long been known among scientists that the supplement industry is so unregulated that it’s very rare for the bottle to contain what’s on the label. You just don’t know what you’re getting, and despite FDA efforts, many products are hawked through disreputable channels by way of outrageous and unethical claims.
There are a few good supplements out there. About five companies I know of make a decent effort to put into their products what they claim is on the label. The rest are pretty much selling vain hope.
Be careful out there, and do your research. Look for companies that adhere to pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practices (which are far more stringent than food GMP’s) and submit their products to reputable external testing laboratories
Yesterday I got another one. I reproduce all four below:
Notice: each one of these advertorials is based on a boilerplate – they’re identical.
Here at Everyday Health and Wellness, they’re skeptical of Forskolin, Caralluma, Garcinia Cambogia, and Safflower Oil. As a result, “Rachael” has volunteered to be a guinea pig each time. She would now have lost 100 lbs and 16 dress sizes, meaning that her “before” pictures are all a load of bulldust. While I can’t be positive, odds are that “Rachael” does not even exist.
Are we beginning to smell the foul stench of deception here?
Playing In the World Game rates “Everyday Health and Wellness” as
“PANTS ON FIRE”
All of these products are basically worthless for weight release. They may have, in some way, benefits for some people, but there is no magic bullet, no magic pill that will let you lose weight without altering your caloric intake and exercise regime.
The affiliate marketers responsible for putting this spam into your inboxes, the manufacturers of these products, and everyone involved in trying to separate suckers from their money are soulless, immoral scammers. They will stop at nothing to get your money. Stay away from all products of this nature, or anything advertised in this manner.
Just have a look here, the website of Diet Pills Watchdog.
I love the Pros: “May not cause too many side effects.” Well, that’s reassuring. Click the link above for the full review, which illustrates clearly the sleazy techniques used by most affiliate marketers to flog this questionable product and points out these concerns:
Will people sending off for the free trial notice the small print about the VIP program?
There is no medical evidence that taking probiotic supplements is good for health
Potentially dangerous if you have a weakened immune system
I’ll be curious to see if SmartBiotics, LLC, who has recently hired a Washington, DC law firm to send me a fangs-down letter, is going to double down on their douchebaggery by pursuing this meritless action.