Are We This Stupid?

Is the question I’m asking myself after reading this article on ABC News. It concerns everyone’s favorite oil company, BP, buying search terms on Google and Yahoo to ensure that their links on the oil spill are at the “top” of each search engine’s page. I’m sure this is getting all the do-gooders of the world up in arms. Witness, the last page of the article

Despite the criticism, Kevin Ryan, the CEO of California-based Motivity Marketing, says that BP’s fierce PR campaign is smart.

“The search terms, everything, it’s probably not a bad idea for the company to do,” he said. “Is it right? Is buying these terms ethical? That’s another question.”

But we here at SoT (our new, unofficial, super-cool acronym) are smarter than that. We know that there is no ethical dilemma. A private company is selling another private company a service, in the form of advertising. They (BP) are not trying to deceive anyone with the content of these links. They aren’t linking to some site that says “there is no oil spill” or “Exxon did it”. And it’s perfectly clear to any rational, semi-intelligent human being that these links are a form of advertising, separate from the seemingly unbiased (*cough* subject for another post *cough*) links that Google and Yahoo present. Right?

Oh.

According to Kevin Ryan….research shows that most people can’t tell the difference between a paid result pages, like the ones BP have, and actual news pages.

Really?

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5 Responses to Are We This Stupid?

  1. Bob says:

    Like in a magazine, it looks like there’s an article there, but in small print at the top it says “Paid advertisement.” It’s about the same thing. I wonder how effective those are. I always skip over them, even if I would otherwise be interested in the subject matter, BECAUSE they tried to trick me. Oooh, I really show them, don’t I? It must be fairly effective though, because the tactic is still widely used. Huh.

  2. Bob says:

    Nice screen shot work, btw.

  3. Bob says:

    I just noticed that if you do a bing search, the “different colored background” clue is not present. Also, the “sponsored site” bit is far away from the link. Evil bitches.

  4. JC says:

    Bing? What the fuck are you talking about? I had to google “bing” just to know what you meant.

  5. Bob says:

    Just please don’t google my yahoo.