Why I’ll never trust Ellen DeGeneres again, or: How a sponsored link constipated my computer
I like Clinique skincare products, and I like their website. The design is clean, elegant and crisp, with some thoughtful interactive elements, interesting videos, and extensive reviews by consumers. Its raison d’etre is product, but copy and supporting functionalities deliver the message that this is an upscale operation characterized by touches of wit and community caring. They respect me as a consumer, raising their volume just a little to invite me to take advantage of free shipping and sign up for email offers.
I’d recently stocked up on Clinique when I decided to click on a promoted link that appeared on my Facebook page – Ellen DeGeneres with the provocative headline, “Is Ellen Older Than She Claims To Be? Shocking Truth Exposed.” I found myself at what appeared to be the Prevention Magazine/Good Housekeeping website, reading about Ellen’s “backstage skincare secret” as “featured in Yahoo!, Woman’s Day, Vanity Fair, Time, People and AOL”.
I discovered that Cindy Crawford, Kelly Ripa and Jennifer Aniston use the product too! And to the right of the article, a cover from “Good Housekeeping” featured the revered Dr. Oz next to a headline proclaiming “Look ½ Your Age in 4 Weeks!,” with Martha Stewart appearing on a neighboring magazine cover.
The amazing truth unfolded from there, with before-and-after photos of ordinary women raving about the miraculous properties of the product – including Brenda from Wilmington, DE, who just happened to be my age, and who looked remarkably younger in her after shot.
And these folks were offering me a 30-day trial supply of their products free if I signed up the same day! Wow! Too bad I’d just bought that stuff from Clinique.
Out of curiosity, I clicked on one of the menu buttons – “Life”. That took me to a page about the product. Hmmm. Same for the other menu buttons. More hmmm. Even the offer to subscribe to Good Housekeeping for 99 cents per issue landed me on a product page. And when I tried to close the tab, I was notified that by hitting cancel I would be giving up the chance to receive my free trial. But the only button available was “OK”. That didn’t seem right. And I couldn’t close the window! And I couldn’t force quit my browser! Eventually I had to shut down my computer to escape.
Of course, by doing so I gave up the opportunity to look half my age before Thanksgiving. Or maybe not. For some reason, I have a feeling the offer is still open.