A little truth about false advertising.

November 14, 2008

images1images-22images-13We’re just lying to meet you on Classmates.com!

Adpulp recently ran a piece about a California man who was fooled into joining Classmates.com by an online come-on claiming some of his long lost high school friends were waiting to meet up with him on the site.

Ah, the promise of seeing Stevie and the Pugster again! Remember that time you all climbed up the water tower and Stevie fell in? Or what about sweet Lorraine, the most beautiful girl in the world? Maybe she’s regretted that missed opportunity at prom, where you both were with other dates, but had that one slow dance…

All bullshit. Nobody this man knew from high school was waiting for him at Classmates.com. It was an email scam. And one, according to his attorney, that was arguably illegal. Adpulp reports they are  “seeking class-action status for the complaint, which alleges misrepresentation, negligence, fraudulent concealment and violations of California’s business code.”

Good for him. I loathe this blatant form of false advertising. I recently compared hardcore DM to “snagging” –a brutal form of fishing whereby the fishermen rip weighted hooks through the water trying to gaff spawning salmon.

This “Bait and Switch” technique is nasty for it’s reliance upon a lie. Other lying liars of the adworld are direct marketers who address (and dress) envelopes to look like there’s a check inside or correspondence that is “personal and confidential.” Disgraceful. How is this not different than the email con men from Nigeria or phony victims of natural disasters and war? They want your money and will prey on your sympathy to get it.

I realize what we do (at all agencies, in all media) is based on a selling proposition. I’ve written extensively about how advertisers regularly manipulate greed, lust, envy, sloth and other “sinful” triggers in order to fulfill their agendas. I struggle with it and am, in turn, fascinated by the struggle. However, I must draw the line at bait and switch or flat out lying.

Old friends may be found via Classmates.com but they are NOT waiting for YOU right NOW. And when the site uses something as personal as an email to communicate, it makes the lie more insidious. For me, it crossed the line.

What do you think? 

3 Responses to “A little truth about false advertising.”

  1. Malcom Z said

    As a near-victim of the above “ruse” I can tell you i spent a good 10 minutes fooling around the site instead of signing up. I had a hunch there was a bait and switch going on…
    Now when I get those false “You-Won-A-Trip” letters I don’t even open them. I think it is these nasty letters that give DM a bad name. If the solicitations I got were tasteful like a good print ad I’d likely look them over. Advertisers should spend the extra time and money making DM attractive instead of cleverly disguised lies.
    Why hasn’t DM gotten prettier with its popularity? It’s almost always drek. No wonder creatives balk at doing it. Don’t they hate getting it too?
    -Mal “content” Z

  2. Steffan,
    There were only 11 in my high school graduating class. No one wants to find me. And quite frankly, I don’t want to see any of them, either. Therefore, this was one hoax, I didn’t fall far. Now the, “Do you want to extend…?” That’s another story, my friend.
    Ferg

  3. Joe Dapier said

    There is a free alternative to classmates.com which I think is a little too effective.

    I often have randoms contacting me from 20 years ago despite the fact I only knew them for a summer.
    Most of the correspondence is one way and sounds a little like this:

    “Hey duuuude, remember when we worked at Wilmette Beach back in ’88? Man whatever happened to that one chick…you know? That one…ahh whatever, I live in Colorado now but we should definitely get some beers sometime. Rock on Dude”.

    It’s called Facebook.

    I’m shocked Classmates.com had the chutzpah to go live in the first place. May explain their sketchy marketing tactics (though it sure as hell doesn’t excuse them).

    Ok. I’m procrastinating. Supposed to be writing body copy right now.

    Cheers!
    Joe

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