Yahoo Says OK to Ugly Deceptive Ads on Front Page

Yahoo Says OK to Ugly Deceptive Ads on Front Page

In 2009, a wave of scammy negative option credit card billing schemes for weight loss, teeth whitening and skincare helped fill the coffers of online publishers in the wake of 2008’s financial meltdown, largely driven by aggressive affiliate marketers. The FTC handed down fines, consent decrees and other nastiness in the ensuing years (here’s one from earlier in 2013, for example). Some of the display ads that consumers saw a lot of especially in 2009 and 2010 were described as “belly fat” ads, though there were plenty of others with imagery designed to catch attention related to teeth and skin. There was not a single ad network, DSP or publisher that didn’t benefit at least in some small way from these advertisers, though sooner or later when it became clear the products were scammy the more reputable publishers like Yahoo started turning away affiliate dollars. Literally: Yahoo would typically extend credit to large advertisers and agencies, but the lesser-known affiliate ad buyers would be asked to prepay and were often very willing to oblige to the tune of six- and seven-figure payments. Apparently many of these prepayments were dutifully returned by Yahoo when they decided against continuing to run these kinds of offers in their ad space.

It seems though, that some of these offers are back in the form of a new “in-feed” style ad on Yahoo’s front page. Here’s a screenshot from earlier today of a page, at one time considered one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on the Web (red highlight is mine):

These wrinkly-skin pictures are awesome, aren’t they? Okay, but if the image and text passes muster with a creative group, surely Yahoo has also vetted the actual advertiser – -surely they’re not trying any of the “fake news site” or other deceptive stuff that the FTC has cracked down on again and again? I clicked on the ad and it took me to “living.dailyhealthtrend.com“. Below is a screenshot (again, I added the stuff in red, along with a few numbers):

  1.  All the “section headings” are fake – they go to http://affiliate.cpavhits.com/rd/r.php?sid=432&pub=370185&c1=SKIN&c2=&c3=&lpid=
  2. All the sharing links to Facebook/Twitter etc are fake – they go to the same place
  3. The Facebook like figures are fake, it’s a static image (so that’s a violation of Facebook ToS I believe) that also goes to that same affiliate link
  4. “Only 6 Trials Still Available” is most likely nonsense. The use of the word “Free” with an asterisk is a red flag – there’s a link at the very bottom of the page after a lengthy scroll, that links to a separate T&C page. This violates FTC rules about endorsement disclosures not being linked on another page etc.
  5. The usual appeal to mass media authority, screenshots of well-known magazine covers. Not dissimilar from the logos of major news outlets common in some of the scammy fake endorsement ads we saw in the first fake Affiliate boom.
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One of the evil but clever ideas some affiliate had (who was then copied ad nauseum) was to encourage people to buy two scammy products, and use them in combination to get the desired effect. Kind of like the scam version of “rinse, repeat” marketing on shampoo bottles. This site has that of course, but goes a step further saying that “After clinical testing it was proven that you must use BOTH products in this method to achieve similar results”, and below this are the fake comments / endorsements natch. (“10 of 44” comments, all from a single day from no-avatar first-name-only randoms)
I’ve been a Yahoo fan for a long time. It’s been my de-facto home page for years, even though it no longer houses my go-to personal email account. It’s been getting less relevant to me and this might put it over the top. I hope there’s someone at Yahoo who reads this blog post and is unhappy. We can all put up with online advertising and know that it’s what pays the bills and keeps content and services free, but there’s absolutely no need for this kind of deceptive crap on any web page of a reputable publisher, let alone the front page.