Thursday, October 04, 2007

What’s Up With That?

A couple of weeks ago, I got a virus.

Well, I guess, technically speaking, it wasn’t a virus, but a Trojan Horse. Really, what’s the difference? They both mess up my computer. A virus is a program that sneaks onto my computer and does something, usually malicious. A Trojan horse is a program that sneaks onto my computer and then opens up holes in my security for other things to sneak into my computer, which are usually malicious. The end result is the same. I still have to clean it up.

I first discovered this when I was on my computer, writing something. It was one of those odd moments when I wasn’t surfing the ‘net, but I was typing in Word. Suddenly, a window opened. Internet explorer. And an ad appeared in the window.

I leaned back and looked at it. It was a strange moment, because I wasn’t sure what was going on. It wasn’t like a tiny pop-up ad window that comes when you hit a site (though those are bad enough, thank you very much). This one was a full-screen window. And it was Internet Explorer. That’s odd, because I use Mozilla FireFox as my browser pretty much exclusively.

The ad itself was annoying, but at least it wasn’t offensive. Not in its content, anyway. I don’t even remember what the ad was, which shows you what an impactful message it bore.

So, I did some scanning with my Anti-virus program, and found it, among a few others. I thought I’d cleaned it off, but it kept on happening. When it finally did pop up an offensive ad, I realized the only way I was going to be able to deal with it would be to wipe the hard drive and start over.

Fortunately, I do that as a sort of routine maintenance every year or so anyway. Computers just get so much residual junk in the trunk that you’ve got to empty it and re-intall it all. I used to have to burn all my songs and other data files to CD backups every time I did it. That part of the process alone took me a few days. Last Christmas, my wife got me an 200 GB External USB hard drive so now I just run the files to that, and it takes about a half hour. Much sweeter.

So, I finally get time to do the deed, and I make my backups, and I start the disk reformatting. Then I reinstall Windows. Everything’s going according to plan. It’s only when I start reinstalling device drivers that it starts locking up. I try everything I know. Nothing’s working. I ended up reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling Windows—I mean re-re-re-reinstalling Windows about 6 times over the course of the ordeal.

Finally, I tried enough tricks and switches to get it to work, and I’ve been happily setting up my programs and transferring my data files back. It took me over a week of evenings to make it all work.

But, this article is more than just a sob story, really…

While I was doing this, I started thinking, and my thoughts drifted to that first evening when I saw the window interrupt my writing. There was an ad in that window. I started wondering. Why would someone want to advertise their business in a space that makes their customers angry?

Think about it. I get tons of spam on a daily basis. I search through my list, select them all and delete them in a single swoop. I delete them instead of opening them for three reasons: One, they’re annoying; Two, they often carry more viruses and other malicious software; and Three, did I mention they’re annoying.

I don’t want hear about another lower mortgage rate. Real Rolexes don’t impress me, so why would I want to wear a knockoff. I’m not sure I’d trust my life to medicines bought off the ‘net, and the last thing my wife needs is for me to enhance my libido.

And yet, the ads keep on… The viruses and the Trojan horses keep throwing more in my face. It’s frustrating, intrusive and it makes me angry. And if I’m angry, then I definitely don’t have a good first impression of their company (or even a good thousandth impression).

So, what are the marketing execs thinking?

“Let’s invest a lot of money in ads that chase our customers away…”


Here’s what you should be thinking: “Let’s invest a lot of time and money in promotions that attract our audience to us!” Here are some suggestions:

  1. Identify your audience.

That’s a key first step. If you don’t know who you’re marketing to, you’ll never find them. Look out for the temptation to market to the whole world. Trust me, that takes more money and time than you probably have.

  1. Find where they are on the ‘net.

What sites are they already visiting? What blogs are they reading? What words are they searching for? What shows do they watch? Which singers do they listen to?

  1. Place your ads in those places

Bid on those search terms at Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing. Get links from those sites. Post messages on those forums, and comments on those blogs. Buy display ads in those eZines and info sites. Share articles and content with those sites. Get connected!

On the other hand, if you’re going to annoy me with spam and virus ads, save your money. Or, better yet, if you’re going to just flush it down the toilet, why not PayPal it to me directly? Then it would be ad money that would make me happy!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.


  1. I've always wondered who advertises in popups anyway? Because we all know that people hate popups and normally block them or just close them. Same with spam. I use Gmail, and get maybe 1 or 2 pieces of spam a month.

    Of course, the interesting thing is that these people decided to advertise by could that ever be a smart business decision?

  2. As you have all probably noticed popups are slowly expiring as most browsers have popup blockers and the fact that everybody now knows about them. I remember back in 99-02 I would hit a bad site by accident and would be hit with popups faster than I could exit them. Eventually the machine would lock up.
    There really is only one mythical place we can still sell everything at once. That world un to itself... those greedy bums...EBAY

    Debbie and Fred
    Ebay seller DFGiftsandThings2