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Don't trick users: 4 tips

Don Mathis and Michael Sprouse
Don't trick users: 4 tips Don Mathis and Michael Sprouse

As online marketers, we play an active leadership role in general internet marketing practices and ensuring the integrity of the online advertising experience. When a consumer feels tricked or violated, especially with regards to online ads, credibility in the industry is diminished. Our role is to prevent this from happening.

Michael Sprouse is the chief marketing officer for AzoogleAds

Having just come out of National Cyber Security Month (October), it is an appropriate time to ask how marketers approach this important and complex task. Below are a few suggestions.

Ensure ad copy is clear
It doesn't take a legal degree or a law enforcement background to recognize when some action or some ad copy is unclear or misleading. When writing ad copy, evaluate it from the consumer's perspective. This holds true across all forms of digital media from PPC listings to banners used in affiliate marketing campaigns.

To evaluate, ask yourself questions from your consumer's point of view. For example, "How would I feel if I clicked on an ad for a free iPod and was forced to sign up for hundreds of dollars of unwanted subscription programs?" or "Did I know enough about the terms and conditions of this promotion when I hit the submit button?"

If you're still not sure, the results of your campaign can be a determining factor. Assume that if it looks too good to be legitimate, it probably is. For example, you just optimized your online marketing campaign and noted 23 percent increase in clickthrough rates. If the increase is linked to a more effective landing page, that's okay. If it's because the font color of the pricing information is so close to the background color that consumers can't read it, that's not okay.

Communicate effective integrity assurance to consumers
Re-evaluate your business practices and make sure they are not deceiving the consumer. Your business practices should be compliant with all applicable federal and state laws. There are many, ranging from the FTC Code and state consumer protection laws, to more specialty areas depending on the kind of advertising a company does, such as Graham-Leach-Bliley in the mortgage advertising realm. 

Once you've taken this precaution, communicate best practices to your consumer base. Some of the best strategies for doing so often have multiple consumer touchpoints. For example, depending on your ad copy and the type of promotion you're running, the best place for your terms and conditions could be on your landing page and on various pages of your website. To enforce your business's credibility, your landing page can also contain notice of your alliances with prominent industry groups.

Choose your providers carefully
If you work with an ad network, ensure it is in compliance with all relevant rules and laws. The ad network model is a powerful one, enabling vast reach and innovation. However, the vaster a network, the more chance there is of a rogue partner or of instances slipping through the cracks. Ask your provider about its affiliate network policies and procedures. For example, learn about the company's stance on network compliance and how it ensures affiliates that don't comply are caught and removed from the network. 

Always "be" the consumer
Sometimes we have to take off our professional hats, and truly be the consumer. Too frequently, industry discussions around clicks, conversion rates, bid prices and impressions forget the fundamental element of our business: the person on the end of the ad chain who is actually viewing the ad. Keeping this key perspective in mind helps a company to build a robust integrity assurance program.

Overall, as marketing professionals, it is essential that internet safety and consumer protection be a number one priority everyday, if we as an industry are to expand our reach and truly become marketers for the masses. The value of doing right by the customer should always be at the forefront of every great marketer's mind.

Don Mathis is the chief operating officer () and Michael Sprouse is the chief marketing officer () for AzoogleAds.


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Commenter: Don Mathis

2013, February 22

This piece remains bang-on, in terms of directing a philosophy for customer acquisition management and how to go about protecting the consumer in such transactions. It remains incumbent on all of us in the digital marketing industry to ensure our consumers and users have a safe experience and continue to maintain trust in the internet.

This article was an "oldie but a goodie” … I just stumbled across it recently. It reminds me that Epic Advertising – the successor to Azoogle – was a great run (it was later merged into Connexus Corporation in 2010. We had a phenomenal team, some of whom I still work with at Kinetic Social, a spin-out from EMG in 2011. They are the reason Epic Advertising was a great company, the leading performance ad network from its inception through its business combination with Connexus.

Don Mathis (Don-Mathis.com Blog: dhmathis.com)