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Don’t lie to your customers

2009 January 31
by matthew

Perhaps I should tone that down and say don’t misrepresent yourself, your company, or your product and services in your advertising. Let me give you an example.before-after

While doing some research on the web over the last few weeks, I’ve been expose to the ad for on several of the sites that I’ve visited.  Of course it makes the amazing claim of losing over 29 pounds of fat just by following one simple rule.  So after being exposed to the ad several times, I finally gave into my curiosity.

If we click on the link and follow the ad, we’re introduced to Melanie Thomas.  Mel goes on to say:

Hi everyone, my name is Melanie Thomas and I’m from South Dakota. I decided to write this blog first as a journal for my personal use, but then decided to post it publicly.

south_dakota_markedThat’s very nice of you Melanie.  It’s also very nice that she paid for all those skyscraper advertisements plastered all over Digg and Facebook out of her own pocket too! She’s even a South Dakota girl – it’s nice to see another South Dakota native publishing on the Internet.  Thanks for looking out for us Mel!

What are you trying to sell me

We find out that the one simple rule is apparently buying two simple products – Acai Berry and Body Cleanse. Body Cleanse sure sounds like a nice friendly name – what does it do?  Apparently it is another name for “colon cleanser.” Apparently colon cleansing is “intended to remove fecal waste and unidentified toxins from the colon and intestinal tract”. Colon cleansing can sometimes include the use of enemas to inject water mixed with herbs or other liquids into the colon. Anything to lose those love handles though, right?

However Body Cleanse looks to just be oral cleaning, which probably means it’s only loaded with a daily dose of dietary fiber, herbs, and laxatives. body-flush Let’s just ignore that there is currently no scientific evidence that supports the benefits of colon cleansing for right now. For those of you that slept through high school biology class that means that science has no proof that it actually works.

This is a very sophisticated advertisement.  It uses multivariate testing with multiple landing pages.  I found at least four of them before I stopped looking.  These people obviously know what they’re doing.  Not surprising given that Americans spend an estimated $30 billion a year on all types of diet programs and products.  It’s also not a surprise when we started seeing the ad – the beginning of January.  New Year is that magical time when we get to wipe the slate clean and start over with a brand new year.  Part of our American traditions consist of making New Year’s Resolutions for ourselves. Unfortunately a lot of people have trouble keeping them, especially when it comes to weight loss. The really bad news is when it comes to losing weight, there probably won’t be any magic pill.  Folks will just have to lose it the old fashioned way – good diet and exercise.

Let’s get back to the advertisement. I’m used to outrageous claims, but what made me really suspicious is that she allegedly lives in South Dakota.  South Dakota isn’t a illinois-marked very big state (only about 804,194 according to a recent estimate) and so it seemed to me that Mel would have gotten some sort of press about this (“Local SD Woman Makes Good on the Internet”).  So I looked Mel up in the White Pages and found only five occurrences of an “M Thomas.” So to check her story out I went to a free proxy server and brought up her site.  A proxy server basically acts as a middleman when you’re surfing the web.  You ask it for a web page, it goes out and gets it for you.  However the web site that you got the page from doesn’t know you’re the one that asked for it, it thinks you are the proxy server.  After viewing her site through the proxy server, I found out that Mel apparently moved to Illinois.

On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog

When you visit a web site, they may not know who you are, but it’s very easy to tell where you’re coming from.  Your computer is assigned a unique IP address by your Internet Service Provider (or ISP).  There are databases available of what IP addresses are being used at different geographic areas.  In other words, when you visit a web site, the site can look simply look up the city and state you’re coming from.  So when I visited her site through a proxy server that was physically located somewhere in Illinois, it said that she now lived in Illinois instead of South Dakota. For those of you close to a state border, just drive across to a neighborhood coffee shop with free wireless internet to try it yourself.

Back where I come from in [insert-state-name], they that call misrepresentation.

logo I could go on to say that the average antioxidant capacity of açaí juice was ranked lower than that of pomegranate juice, Concord grape juice, blueberry juice, and red wine, and roughly equivalent to that of black cherry or cranberry juice.  At least red wine may help you stay younger, destroys cancer cells from the inside, and help you lose weight.   Or that they might be using the logo (a free service that allows anyone to publish themselves on the web) just to make it seem like Mel really is some sweet little gal from Small Town, South Dakota.  Which would be too bad since at least one of my favorite bloggers appears to use to handle some of the updates and commenting on his web site.

As for Mel’s Diet blog – it’s a good thing that she’s using a colon cleanser, because apparently she’s full of crap.

One Response leave one →
  1. January 31, 2009

    That’s a nice bit of detective work – you’ve got much more patience for wading through border-line outrageous claims to get to the truth that I do.

    The practice of customized landing pages in order to increase customer comfort and trust is a practice nearly as old as search engines themselves. But to tweak the personal details of a story so much raises much doubt as to the genuineness of Mel (and, by extension, the product) in the first place.

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