Beware This Brilliant and Sneaky Popup Ad

As per usual, I had 62 tabs open in Chrome, fluttering about from one article to another, following the link trail that is the endless pursuit of knowledge. Tabs have a way of reproducing like that. When they do I tend to get lost in the whimsy of content hurricanes.

An article about pre-screening engineering talent paves the way for a blog post about machine learning algorithms and then a Wikipedia page about some theory I know I should know but have to look up just in case someone asks at some point in time.

This is my favorite Internet. The web of massive pursuit and insatiable learning. Under normal circumstances, it’s an endless forest of wonder, but last night I caught wind of a dirty little advertising trick. If you browse the Internet like tabs are the currency of the new world, watch for this trick.

At some point in my browsing session CasinoSpin365 managed to slip through the cracks of an online advertisement to create a new browser tab like the one captured in the screenshot below. Instead of leading the user to a standard landing page as display ads normally do, the site took a gamble. As you can see, CasinoSpin365 skipped the informational page and instead asked for my Facebook profile information and email address right away. (Email addresses are like online marketing gold, because they give marketers the ability to reach out to the prospect over and over again. As a result, the cost of acquiring an email address is usually much, much higher than that of a display advertisement click.)

In this case, Casino365 bet that the person browsing would be distracted by multiple tabs. They assumed I would  click through and hand over my information without question. After all, this screen is so familiar that pressing the blue button is about as automatic as putting on your right shoe.

But, my friends, this is a sham. In tech we call these kinds of sketchy persuasive practices dark UI patterns.

Look how brilliant this is, all the way through to execution. Most marketing is about creating shiny images people notice. In this case CasinoSpin365 didn’t want to be noticed, so instead of filling in the thumbnail image meant for identifying the entity that is going to authorize your profile, they left it blank. This delivers Facebook’s grey and unassuming default image, one many of us have probably seen many times before.

CasinoSpin365, I both despise and applaud your dark magic. Everyone else, watch out. The marketers are trying to outsmart us.

About the author: Entrepreneur with ten years of experience running a digital marketing agency out of New York City. I work with startups and brands such as Virgin Airlines, L2 Inc (Gartner), American Express, Fabletics, LOFT, and more. When I’m not helping companies increase their audience and revenues, I love to travel, sail, and read. I also moonlight as a bartender at a classic cocktail bar.

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