The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Business & Technology

August 3, 2013

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

(Continued)

The Barton brain trust seemed surprisingly sincere, which I kept in mind as I turned to my next ad. I clicked to learn "the REAL reason why Obama is trying to take your guns away." You'd think health quackery and gun paranoia would have little in common, but soon I was brought to a page with a self-playing, pauseless video and a male voice urging me to watch to the end. Apparently Obama has signed an executive order authorizing him to institute martial law and "steal your food supply," but "Matt" has developed "a weird but incredibly effective system" to survive the coming storm.

"Research on persuasion shows the more arguments you list in favor of something, regardless of the quality of those arguments, the more that people tend to believe it," Norton says. "Mainstream ads sometimes use long lists of bullet points — people don't read them, but it's persuasive to know there are so many reasons to buy." OK, but if more is better, then why only one trick? "People want a simple solution that has a ton of support."

What about all the weirdness? "A word like 'weird' is not so negative, and kind of intriguing," says Oleg Urminsky of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. "There's this foot-in-the-door model. If you lead with a strong, unbelievable claim it may turn people off. But if you start with 'isn't this kind of weird?' it lowers the stakes." The model also explains why some ads ask you to click on your age first. "Giving your age is low-stakes but it begins the dialogue. The hard sell comes later."

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