Posts tagged “trickery”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • LA Times runs front-page ad that resembles a news item – [Nice unpacking of a concern I explored in my recent interactions column, Interacting With Advertising (ask us for a copy)]
    There was no intent to fool readers, Mr. Stotsky said. He said the ad used fonts that differed from the standard Los Angeles Times fonts, and it included the NBC logo. NBC staff wrote the ad, and The Times’s business staff approved it; the editorial side was not involved, he said. “I think most consumers will recognize that this is an ad,” Mr. Stotsky said.

    Whether readers knew this was advertising or not was beside the point, said Geneva Overholser, director of the school of journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication.

    “Some people say readers are smart and they can tell the difference, but the fundamental concept here is deeply offensive,” she said. “Readers don’t want to be fooled, they don’t like the notion that someone is attempting to deceive them.”

  • Another Los Angeles Times Promotion Draws Fire – (again, an issue I explored in my recent interactions column, Interacting with Advertising)

    “You dress an ad up to look like editorial content precisely because you think it will make it more valuable,” said Geneva Overholser, director of the school of journalism at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. “Fundamentally, that’s an act of deception.”

    The supplement is clearly marked as an advertising supplement, said Nancy Sullivan, a Los Angeles Times spokeswoman. The bylines have “special advertising section writer,” and the font is different from the one the newspaper uses, she said.

Flying the sneaky skies


While checking in online for a United Airlines flight, you may be offered the opportunity to upgrade to Economy Plus. It’s likely that most people decline upsells in many situations, though. The default would be to click “no thanks” and move on to completing the transaction. But United has done some tricky and manipulative interface design. The bright yellow arrow with bold text placed on the right is almost irresistible. E-commerce sites have trained us to envision a transaction moving from left to right (granted that they’ve landed on that model since it corresponds to how we read and other cultural factors); it’s very easy to click on the arrow and make a purchase you didn’t want. It takes cognitive work to search for the preferred option which is a lowly blue-underlined unbolded text link off to the left.

Why would United do this? Sure, they can trick a few people into mistakenly purchasing an upgrade. But at what cost to the brand? Even if they don’t fool you, you’ve had to work to avoid being fooled, and the trust (seemingly an important brand attribute for an airline) is dinged.

Grab a clue, web people @ United…this is no way to interface with customers.


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