Has Cecil gone to the dark side? (bogus ads)

While reading Cecil’s latest column about fasting, I was struck with the prominent ad that appeared on the page that said Make Powerful Healing Water, which led directly to the Liberty Water Research Center page. I think if you look at these screen shots, they leave little to the imagination.

Refreshing Cecil’s fasting page, which brings up new ads, the healing water ad was replaced by Eat this and never diet again, which led to this page, promoting Dr. Oz and Oprah Winfrey’s favorite cures, complete with white-coated actors pretending to be doctors.

I’m afraid to refresh the page again. Shame on you, Cecil. How can you permit this kind of advertising? Our ignorance-fighting timeline is really stretching out, if not turning time backwards.

Will someone please take a hard look at the ad server companies so SDMB’s image doesn’t get tarnished further?

I’m not privvy to how this stuff works, but my understanding is that the Chicago READER is paid for accepting an advertising package/program, which tries to fit the ads to the topic. However, neither the READER nor SD staff nor Cecil Hisself have any control over what ads appear. (I think there are some minor exceptions where the READER can object, but they’re minor – like porn ads that slipped through the screening somehow – rather than just because the ads are hokum. A “true” fraud – where the ad promised to send a bottle of healing water and took your money but sent nothing – would also be squelched.)

So we are now discussing whether the ads I mentioned aren’t really true frauds (wink, wink)?

As Robert Park says, “There’s a fine line between foolishness and fraud.”

A fool and his money are soon partying.

What makes me sad is the ever-so-slight hit to the ego. I ever-so-slightly mock Hate Radio’s audience because their advertising is made up of goldbug, snake oil and other products that prey on the stupid (I mock them for many other reasons, but this one is recognizably tenuous). But, here we are, professed smartypants getting ads targeted at the same audience. I guess it can be distinguished on the assumption that Rush’s marketing department says “hey, my audience is gullible as fuck; they’re a great audience for your bullshit” whereas the Reader’s marketing department says “holy shit, you’ll actually give us money?!”

Still, from the community you’d think we’d have places like ThinkGeek, Wired, Amazon Affiliate, etc. It’s where we spend advertising/word-of-mouth dollars.

Yes, yes. I call attention to the many weekly shows hosted by Leo LaPorte’s TWIT (This Week In Technology). They weave ads into the show without separation, old-tyme-radio style, and the host cannot get away with saying he didn’t know, because he’s the one doing the copy. But I find the ads informative and have often led me to investigate further and sometimes buy the items described. It’s a very honest way of doing business and reaches exactly the right target audience. Although I know it’s advertising, I don’t find it offensive in the least.

Now if Leo were to insert an ad for a psychic weight loss and toxic purge webcam based on quantum vibrations and planetary alignment, I would be quite upset.

Well, yeah. He’s expressed it better than I did. We can’t stop ads that are foolishness, but we can stop ads that are out-and-out fraud.

Selling miracle water and actually delivering it is MORE of a fraud than not sending anything at all, imho. Because if someone dies or gets sicker because they drank miracle water thinking it was a real cure, then true harm has been done. This stuff needs to be off the straight dope website ASAP.

So will the ‘miracle water’ ads be stopped, or do they not meet the level for out and out fraud? Seems really clear to me.
Or, maybe Cecil can do a column explaining how maybe ‘miracle water’ might be of some actual value.

I thought The Straight Dope’s mission was to fight ignorance, not gullibility. Ignorance can be countered with a cold hard dose of the facts. Gullibility must be conquered from within.

A website that touts itself as fighting ignorance should have no business peddling snake-oil. If you can’t see the conflict of interest there, so be it. But it’s crystal clear to some of us.

Interesting. Just how does this process work? Does the ad supplier have a foolishness category that is distinct from a fraud category, so the customer can choose? Apparently SDMB can specify some ads they will not accept – how else can they stop fraud ads? So why can’t they specify some others, or would Cecil rather accept the income in spite of the hypocrisy?

Or is it just a matter of choosing the best supplier, but having to accept everything that supplier delivers?

Easy. Fraud is what can get you prosecuted in a court of law. Foolishness is what can get you elected to make the laws.

Based on other services I’ve seen, I’d guess that out-and-out fraud can be reported to the ad provider, and they will be removed for everyone who uses that provider. The ad provider would not want to get into legal trouble by running ads they know are fraudulent.

The podcast Security Now is fantastic. Anything TWIT does is done well, actually.