Anyone who uses the web regularly will have by now come across the ‘one weird trick’ adverts. These ads sit in the corner of the screen on all manner of different sites in various niches, and offer a range of benefits all achievable through ‘one weird trick’. Whether it’s getting more hair, flattening your stomach, building muscle or overcoming diabetes it would seem that there’s apparently ‘one weird trick’ that can help you.
Most of us of course are smart enough not to pay them much attention. We all know that if there really was a single trick that could do any of these things then the world would know about it – secrets don’t tend to stay secret very long on the web.
But while most won’t be foolish enough to actually click any of these links, most people have probably wondered at some point how these campaigns work – and just how they make their money if so.
So what happens if you click one?
While these ads all offer very different things, they also tend to follow a largely predictable pattern. Click on one of the links and you will normally be directed to a page with an auto-playing video that you can’t pause or even skip. The video will use a lot of marketing hype and hyperbole to make sure you feel compelled to watch on (despite being around 15-30 minutes long!) but will take forever to get to the actual ‘solution’ that it promises you.
Once you’ve gotten through the video, if you have survived that long, you’ll learn that the ‘one weird trick’ normally involves buying a book or alternatively some kind of magic shake, pill or remedy. Which of course costs money and is where the advertisers make their money.
But in order to make their ads that prominent, chances are that the marketers have spent a great deal of money and it’s amazing to think that such shoddy and transparent ads could earn them enough to pay off this debt. It must work, but how can this long winded and frankly weird strategy pay the bills?
The Power of ‘Shoddy’
When I went to a car boot sale once, I quickly learned that it can sometimes pay to look unprofessional. I found that my books, DVDs and ornaments would actually sell better if I left them in a pile with zero organisation. Why was that? Because this made it appear as though I didn’t know what I was doing – as though I might be the sort of person to accidentally sell something for much less than its worth.
Furthermore, having my items in a messy heap gave my visitors the option to ‘sort through’ what I had on offer in order to find that hidden gem themselves. People love sifting through things, and the very act of looking through meant they were psychologically committing themselves to my stall – after spending that much time chances are that they would buy something.
Some very similar things are going on with the ‘one weird trick’ ads. Usually these ads look low-res and badly designed, which tells the potential clickers that they might offer good value. At the same time the fact that the trick is ‘weird’ makes it more believable that it might be something other people had missed up until now (and also piques interest in most cases).
Meanwhile that super-long video has the same effect as routing through a pile of useless DVDs – you are committing time to the process, becoming more impatient, and thus you will want some kind of ‘payoff’ once you get to the end (meaning you’ll have to buy something).
Sieving Your Audience
Of course there are plenty of people like you and me who simply won’t fall for this transparent strategy. To us this is a clear trick that will offer know value and may well infect our computers with viruses. 99% of people ignore those ads – but that’s just fine as far as the marketers are concerned.
The low-quality look of the ads you see has the effect of turning off certain members of the public meaning they won’t click them. That’s good news for the marketers because they pay for these adverts per click. The people who do click though, and then who are willing to sit right through the long spiel of the videos, are the kinds of people who are likely to be more trusting and to spend more money on things. And these are precisely the kinds of people that those marketers want to do business with…
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