The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Business & Technology

August 3, 2013

What happens when you actually click on those "One Weird Trick" ads?

(Continued)

Every time Lon seemed about to get to the spicy heart of the matter, he'd go off on a tangent. This video wouldn't stay on the Internet for long, he said. The cure is for people "ready to put down the flaky answers." Indeed, "if you're looking for a miracle cure or new age fad, leave this page now." Lon also took pains to trash the medical establishment. Big Pharma has been lying to you, he said. They profit every time you take their pills, or inject yourself with their needles. But the secret spice Lon discovered can free you of the lies and the needles. You will "look and feel like you were never sick." Your doctor will confirm your cure, astounded.

What is Lon up to? "People tend to think something is important if it's secret," says Michael Norton, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School. "Studies find that we give greater credence to information if we've been told it was once 'classified.' Ads like this often purport to be the work of one man, telling you something 'they' don't want you to know." The knocks on Big Pharma not only offered a tempting needle-free fantasy; they also had a whiff of secret knowledge, bolstering the ad's credibility.

It's doubtful, though, that Lon has much in the way of insider info. He's an actor hired by Barton Publishing, a firm based in South Dakota that puts out a wide variety of crankish health literature — there's nary a foodstuff that isn't the cure to some ailment in one of Barton's booklets. Most "one weird trick" ads are hard to trace back to a specific marketing firm with flesh-and-blood employees, but Barton is open about the kind of publishing it does, with pictures and bios of their contributors on its website. (Notably, the first person listed is not a homeopath but a "split tester.")

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