The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Business & Technology

August 3, 2013

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

(Continued)

Poorly drawn graphics are a deliberate choice as well. "People notice when you put something in the space that's different, even if it's ugly," Urminsky says. "This might hurt the brand of established companies, but the companies here have non-existent or negative brand associations, so it may be worth it for the extra attention."

Plus, "if the ad were too professional, it might undermine the illusion that it's one man against the system," Norton says. Slick ads suggest profit-hungry companies, not stay-at-home moms or rogue truth-tellers trying to help the little guy.

There may be another reason for the length and shoddiness of the ads. "The point is not always to get the customer to buy the product," Urminsky says. "It may be to vet the customer. Long videos can act as a sorting mechanism, a way to 'qualify your prospects.' Once you've established this is a person who'll sit through anything, you can contact them by email later and sell them other products."

"Those Nigerian prince scams are not very convincing," he adds, "but they're meant not to be. If you're a skeptical person, the scammers want to spend as little time with you as possible. These videos may screen people in a similar way."

Arguably, this very article has behaved like a one-weird-trick ad in delaying gratification this long. So what does happen when you grit your teeth and watch to the end of the videos? Well, you can survive the Obama-calypse with a booklet on bunker-building and water purification. Eliminate belly fat using the thoroughly disproven extracts of garcinia cambogia and acai. And diabetes — just add cinnamon. The weirdest trick of all, of course, was getting anyone to click in the first place.

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