Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, March 05, 2021

Man, that Stuart Elliott will publish anything.

Or at least, he seems to publish anything that I send him (on his email newsletter — New York Times print is more privileged terrain). I was surprised to see that he ran an email I sent him last week, which referenced a Q&A that dealt with the current Mercedes-Benz driver-testimonial commercials. It’s another of those fairly off-the-cuff notes I write that, improbably, find a wider audience than I’d ever expect them to.

Anyway, since Elliott published it with the intent of uncovering some long-lost information — many thanks — here it is:

I read the question last week from a reader who Googled the names of people who are appearing in a Mercedes-Benz commercial. That brought to mind a similar impulse I had, probably about 10 years ago now. Unfortunately, my memory’s pretty fuzzy on the details, but it was something like this:

An early Web site registrar, which probably also offered hosting, ran a TV campaign that featured business owners who took the plunge and set up corporate Web sites. Similar to the Mercedes-Benz commercial, their on-camera testimonials included their names, the names of their companies and the U.R.L.’s of their Web sites.

After seeing the spot for the millionth time, I finally decided to type those U.R.L.’s into my browser. What came back weren’t fully-functioning company Web sites, but rather parked pages owned by the advertising registrar. In other words: The testimonials were fictional, but that fact wasn’t indicated in the commercials.

Again, it has been a long time, but I believe I contacted some media outlet or another - probably my hometown newspaper, The St. Petersburg Times - to point out the flub. From there, the spots eventually started running a disclaimer, and the “phony” sites also got some sort of qualifier information. It was an early lesson in Web backlash.

If any of that rings a bell, please let me know. I’m pretty good at ferreting out this sort of stuff, but right now I can’t even imagine where to begin. I’m pretty sure the registrar is no longer around under its original name. And I think one of the fake companies had “Sun” as part of its name.

I certainly was winging it. Now, a week after sending it, I think I’ve jogged my memory enough to ID the registrar company: Network Solutions. I’m not positive on that, but it seems to ring correctly.

As far as the offending phony ads, I’d have thought there would have been some sign of them in the Archive.org cache of NetSol’s website. But there doesn’t appear to be. So I’m out of ideas. If anyone can recall this advertising moment, please volunteer your thoughts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/05/2021 10:34:51 PM
Category: Internet, Advert./Mktg., Publishing | Permalink |

Trackback this entry: Right-click and copy link
Feedback »
Leave a comment

PLEASE NOTE: Various types of comment moderation may be triggered once you hit the "Say It!" button below. Common causes for this are the inclusion of several hyperlinks and/or spam words in the comment field. Please do not hit the "Say It!" button more than once. If you feel your comment is being blocked without cause, feel free to email me about it.