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Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Ogilvy-inspired-but-Sleaze-ified Tricks

By Jeff Sexton
February 24th, 2009

I guess it was professional curiosity, but I actually clicked one of those facelift-in-a-bottle ads while visiting some blog.  And hell if I wasn’t intrigued by the landing page’s sleaze-bag persuasive techniques.

Take a look at the screen shot I took of the landing page.  What do you think most caught my eye?  Here’s a hint: think layout and bolding.

Straight out of The Ogilvy Playbook

Here are two relevant quotes taken from pages 73 and 90 of Ogilvy on Advertising:

“When you advertise in local newspapers, you get better results if you include the name of each city in your headline.  People are mostly interested in what is happening where they live.”

“There is no law which says that advertisements have to look like advertisements.  If you make them look like editorial pages, you will attract more readers.”

Notice how much the landing page has been formatted to look like a blog (the editorial pages of the Web), complete with the “About Me” section at the top of the right-hand column.  And have you noticed that Pensacola, FL has been bolded twice, both in the “About Me” section AND the first sentence of body copy?

Other blog-like touches include a “temporarily closed” comments section and a very chatty / best-friend-name-dropping authorial voice.  But it was the bolded hometown that stood out most.

Now, as a copywriter, I only bold key persuasive points, so that visitors’ eyes will still pick out the important parts of my messaging during a quick scan of the page. Obviously, someone really wanted me to know that this girl was from Pensacola.

And oddly enough, I’m from Pensacola.  What a weird crazy happenstance, huh?

Jenny Has A Lot of Hometowns

So I asked Bryan Eisenberg to go to the same site.  Here’s what he saw:

So, yes, some, uh, creature decided that a hometown girl would be more persuasive than a stranger, and then had absolutely no problem blatantly lying about it.  Makes you proud to be associated with Internet Marketing, doesn’t it?

Still, it’d be a cunning technique, if only it could be de-sleazed first.

Any thoughts on how you might (more ethically) apply this same technique?  If you’re a semi-local supplier, could you get a bunch of enthusiastic customers to “represent” for their hometowns on a templated landing page and then present the testimonial-esque copy based on visitor IP addresses?

What do you think?  And (Michele and Holly, this one’s to you) do you think women are more likely than men to be swayed by a hometown spokesperson?

Add Your Comments

Comments (38)

  1. Rather than just changing the testimonial via IP address, why not create separate pages, catering to each town, and use an HTTP redirect to direct traffic to the page for their hometown-based on IP? This way, you get a completely customized page for search engines to index for each home town that your business serves. I have considered registering different domain names for the different towns that I serve, and directing locals to a customized page for their local area- adding value to the conversation and making certain that everything that they see is relevant to their area.

  2. I don’t understand the hometown spokesperson… should I care about somebody I’ve never met (or that doesn’t exist, for that matter).

    I guess I would think that if this was a legitimate product with even a few success results, they could offer more pictures, and REAL customer testimonials. Proactive Solution comes to mind…

    Further, more and more people are taught not to believe advertising (can’t always believe what you hear on the internet), so I don’t believe most “too good to be true” schemes.

    Just my two pennies.

  3. This is completely shameful. And totally wrong. No wonder Seth Godin wrote a book about All Marketers Are Liars. Here’s the blog too http://sethgodin.typepad.com/all_marketers_are_liars/

    I think that it should authentic. Real people from the real towns if the marketing team are going to use this kind of strategy. It’s not so clever when it gets found out.

  4. The hometown technique is going to cause friction. It’s almost going to get people “too excited” and second-guess.

    A better technique (as in CR–not ethics) would be to include a nearby town automatically. This would appear more authentic, and would be very easy to do.

    Authenticity is key.

  5. Ha, ha, ha!

    You have to give them points for trying. I had to laugh. Of course it works, otherwise they wouldn’t be pulling this stunt, but someday you get caught.

    And that day isn’t always a good day.

    It’s the old line: Tell the truth. And you won’t need a long memory.

    Sean
    Really from Auckland, New Zealand (and yes it’s really summer here) And it’s tomorrow.

  6. It absolutely works for men… I’ve seen this used quite a bit in business opportunity focused offers for males and it is commonplace with dating/adult sites.

  7. Same type of landing pages that help porn websites convert visitors.

  8. Lindsay,

    I very much agree. While there are gray areas when it comes to marketing and persuasion, outright lying is not one of them – it’s dishonest by anyone’s standards.

    Dave,

    The dating/adult sites are a different model. Of course home town makes a difference if you are actually looking to connect with that person. But Jenny Perfect Skin is plugging products that, on a rational level, could be delivered anywhere without any kind of felt difference to the customer.

    - Jeff

  9. Just like I write in my book, social validation is powerful stuff…. people are swayed by what others say, or in this case what they THINK others say..

  10. These sites work, plain and simple. The blog editorial pages have been used for several months now; and the little touches like GEO can increase conversion rates a fair amount.

    To answer the question above about why not create the geo pages; these sites are built for paid traffic. They are often churn and burn domains. This technique won’t last forever, and it’s not worth doing the SEO in the highly competitive diet industry for most of these sites.

    There’s a few of these blog-like sites out there that are only driving traffic via paid sources, and many of them are top 4k compete sites.

  11. All marketers are not liars. Its a perception that has been created by some unscrupulous elements

    Valencio
    http://www.EmailCharger.com

  12. I’ve seen some recent cases of this for “Google Cash” related get rick quick schemes. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. While someone running a get rich scheme doesn’t have a brand to destroy, this sort of thing could get ugly if done by a large brand.

  13. This is not the same concept Seth Godin preaches in his book “All Marketers Are Liars”… not even close. The premise is that consumers are the ones who lie to themselves. You may want to have another look at that book.

  14. [...] Ogilvy-inspired-but-Sleaze-ified TricksFebruary 24, 2009 [...]

  15. And just to add to the sleaze. We all know that they’re quoting something from the “Barbera Walters Special”, which may just slightly conflict with a special by someone who spells her name “Barbara”.
    An accident? Not likely.

  16. I’ve emailed you about this several times but without a response. (You may consider a contact us form on your web site other than the lead generation one.)

    In your email newsletters please learn how to properly encode special characters such as curly quotes (double and single). It makes you come off a bit on the amateurish side when this is supposed to be a core competency.

  17. I found this post really interesting. It amazes the lengths that people will go to make a sale. Surely building a reputation as an honest marketer is always going to be so much more profitable in the long run.

    Thanks for posting.

    Karl

  18. Stephen,

    My apologies for the messed up curly quotes. I used to type my blog posts in MS Word and then (supposedly) strip the formating gobbledygook by running it through text edit. Seems the evil MS product wouldn’t let go of its gobbledygook so easily, though. I’ll be composing directly in Word Press from now on.

    As for contacting me, feel free to twitter me @JeffSexton.

  19. I want to add to the Dave/Jeff thread about dating sites using hometowns. When I worked in social media/ dating, we commonly used names to attract local interest, but just as important, we actually served real images from that zip code, so the faces were in fact from their area listed. So although the business model is different, a level of trust is still expected between image and hometown link. In our work, when consumers clicked, they ended up on that person’s page, with hometown and other info… then were asked to join when they tried to contact. So, in my experience, using hometown can be a great idea and can be done effectively _as well as_ honestly. :-)

  20. You can geotarget the visitor without outright lying. Instead of directly claiming to be from “Anytown”, an obviously fraudulent claim, the ‘spokesperson’ could work in the visitor target area in the sales copy a little more subtly. For example, a statement like “many women in Anytown have tried (product name) and been delighted with the results.”

    Slightly less evil ;)

  21. IMHO most people pay way too much attention to techniques, and very little to Authenticity.

    Shock Marketer says: “This would appear more authentic, and would be very easy to do.

    Authenticity is key.”

    Appearing more authentic is not authentic.

  22. [...] my initial post on blog-ified and geographically falsified landing pages, I ran into a few more such pages and they all shared the “2-product combo with a free trial [...]

  23. [...] my initial post on blog-ified and geographically falsified landing pages, I ran into a few more such pages and they all shared the “2-product combo with a free trial [...]

  24. To answer your question I would in no way be sawyed by the apearence of a “hometown girl” on an add for “in a bottle botox.”
    The lengths that some advertisers go to in order to sell a ridiculous product amazes me!
    Nice employment of your advertising tips though! good to see they’re going to a worth while companys cause!
    Great post, shows how ridiculous some campaigns are!

  25. I think that the idea of creating a new hometown when a new user comes on is a great idea! I would definatley be more keen to use a product that has been used by someone in my area, and the scheme used by the ad really tackles women’s insecurities.
    Good campaign i say.

  26. those anti wrinkle cream ads are awful. The before/after pictures are frankly IMPOSSIBLE! I’m glad I have adblock pro to block them out for the most part. Definite de-sleazing is necessary for them.

  27. A very interesting case.

    It is like the “girl next door”. But do I trust the ad – I don’t think so…

  28. also the layout and template makes it look un-professional, making one believe that it was really done by a mother of two kids, who has little web design skills.

  29. I trust the ad – it’s got intrinsic value.

  30. Didn’t know about this, thanks!

  31. Nice tricks but I feel a bit sleazy using them LOL

  32. Seems like a clever trick, but I doubt it will have a great deal of impact on the product sales.

  33. I think that it should authentic. Real people from the real towns if the marketing team are going to use this kind of strategy. It’s not so clever when it gets found out.

  34. I’ve been striving to be as honest and authentic about my user profiles as much as possible. It’s even more difficult when I read about the crazy money that the sleazy sites are making by tricking users into paying fees for online dating. I’d never want to use these techniques.

  35. I think that the idea of creating a new hometown when a new user comes on is a great idea! I would definatley be more keen to use a product that has been used by someone in my area, and the scheme used by the ad really tackles women’s insecurities.
    Good campaign i say.

  36. also the layout and template makes it look un-professional, making one believe that it was really done by a mother of two kids, who has little web design skills.

  37. I manage all of the PPC campaigns for my company and we have retail outlets across the whole of the UK. We have drawn up one landing page and then we append some PHP code to the end of each URL and then communicates with our database to change some content and pics on the panding page to differentiate it if say you clicked on a London PPC ad as a pose to a Manchester one.

  38. The ad really is very clever, but perhaps too clever, as it was this type of fake blog that got the FTC’s attention and brought about regulations requiring compensated affiliates to disclose the fact. And, as long as sites aren’t being downright dishonest, I’m not sure I have a problem with them using fonts, bolding, trust seals, and adding home town language to persuade the reader. Let the buyer beware.

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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