Just this week, we saw the FTC flex its muscle, body slamming a sketchy anti-virus company for doing something that was actually fairly commonplace in the mid-2000s.
The so-called “scareware” company, which went by a number of aliases over a few years (WinFixer, WinAntiVirus, and WinAntiVirusPro), used a deceptive form of display ads that claimed to be scanning your hard drive for viruses, spyware, etc. You remember those, right? They had an animated status bar and everything? And, go figure, they always seemed to find porn and malware on your computer!
Well, as you (a savvy digital marketer) already knew, these pop-ups weren’t conducting a scan of your computer… they weren’t doing anything except trying to scare you into buying a piece of antivirus software. Well, it worked to the tune of a reported $60M between 2000 and 2008.
Then, in 2012, it all turned around on Innovative Marketing… when the FTC got a $163M ruling against them. Just to reiterate, that’s a $163M ruling against a company that used dirty tactics to make $60M in revenue…
Some might call this heavy handed. After all, the products weren’t found to cause damages or hurt people, it was the deceptive marketing that the FTC took issue with.
We already knew that intentionally misleading users with scare tactics doesn’t pay. We’ve all seen annoying pop-up ads that are designed to look like something they’re not. These ads don’t work, they simply make you mad.
But the irony is, the more effective they are, the more likely you are to find yourself in hot water with the FTC. So, once again, DON’T be a black hatter.