Online Ads: Still Sleazy After All These Years

You hear a lot about the Web’s legitimization as a marketing medium, but a quick glance at the biggest online ad buyers shows just how far it has to go. Last month, the top two advertisers in terms of raw impressions were, a horoscopes and ringtones service, and dating and online chat provider Zencon Technologies, according to AdRelevance. That’s not so awful in itself — digital sites and services have always relied heavily on remnant online inventory. What’s disappointing is that both companies are using deceptive pitches and shady billing tactics to push their wares.

In the case of, the company uses a bait-and-switch offer to register customers, mentioning the service’s $5.99 per week (not per month, mind you) cost only in the smallest of small type. According to Compete, the site scored a 7 percent conversion rate in July, which sank to 4.5 percent in August and September. At the same time, the number of ads it’s buying has skyrocketed, shooting up 176 percent last month. In other words, the firm’s propping up conversions with loads of new ads. As for Zencon Technologies, well, a Google search on its name will tell you all you need to know.

Bonus Smarm: I can’t finish this post without mentioning Anastasia International, ranked eighth in AdRelevance’s list of top advertisers for the month. The company’s top search terms include gems like “russian+models,” “mail+order+brides” and “”

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