My 1st C & D From A Marketing Ignoramus – How Quaint

Yesterday my wife opened an express letter Fedexed to me from a law office in San Diego – apparently a British marketer has decided the only way he can repair his search engine results is to call out the lawyers, and I have a very strong feeling this is going to backfire.

Pending “reputation management disaster”

Here is what I received:-

cease & desist

This is the first page of the cease & desist.

3 potential jurisdictions though the primary business location of the lawyer’s client is almost certainly the UK & my blog is not set to target any particular regional audience within Google webmaster tools, and in fact hardly ranks in the UK as there is far more negative press from blogs & forums that do target the UK.
The lawyer has trouble distinguishing blogging terminology and differentiating between a “blog post” and the blog itself.

The issue seems to be:-

  • Use of trademarks
  • Infringing on intellectual property
  • Use of copyright material

The name in question certainly wasn’t any kind of registered trademark at the time I wrote my post back in December 2009 – applications happened in March 2010. Trademarks exist from use rather than registration but their primary function is to prevent confusion in trade, not to prevent free speech.

I have searched United States Patent and Trademark Office TESS system, and it appears the US Trademark hasn’t been awarded yet as there is a bunch of information that wasn’t supplied in the original application, thus why a serial number was included (at least that is my understanding)

I have also searched the the UK Intellectual Property Office and a trademark was awarded 2nd July 2010 – that is a few days after this letter was drafted… but the postmark in the Fedex paperwork was 4th July… so the trademark was something they were obviously waiting for…

But trademark has absolutely nothing to do with the content I wrote. It was very clearly a thoroughly researched review & personal opinion. The letter was cleverly (sneakily?) worded suggesting a registered trademark in both territories, when at the time it was drafted their was neither.

Intellectual property becomes complicated…

I included a picture of a full beermat which was being used for marketing purposes. The beer mat included a photo of the gentleman/business who the lawyers represent. Why anyone would include their photo on a beer mat amazes me, because people use them to stub out cigarettes, as makeshift dart boards, to clear up vomit etc. They also get drawn on, just imagine how many times someone has added devils horns to the face on that very same beer mat.

As my review covered the advertising methods used by the person who has set the legal dogs on me, and the source was achnowledged with a followed link, I think I am covered under the UK concept of “Fair Dealing“.

But there were 2 photos I included:-

The first was the same photograph as used on the beermat, and used very frequently within marketing materials. I have similar mug shots out all over the internet – people pick them up, include them on blog posts etc. Lots of people use a similar photo for their avatar on social networking sites and they get syndicated all over the internet.
Plus I have never known a marketer who would require permission to use such a photo, especially on a post which was fairly neutral in tone (it wasn’t totally negative, in fact I have some respect for the guy).
In many ways in this current social media climate, such a photo is more a trademark in many cases than their actual name.
It is like a log… part of a brand, and when referring to that person/brand, especially on a social blotform such as a blog, use of such would be looked on as normal.

Can you seriously imagine not being ridiculed if you sent out a cease and desist because someone included your social media avatar within a blog post that links through to lots of your sites?

I also included a photo from the sales page of a conference held in the UK in 2009. It was being used in a marketing context thus wasn’t a private photo and I did link through to the sales page in question. It was a good photo and showed the subject of the review in a very positive light. My commentary about the conference in my mind was neutral. There are 2 types of internet marketing conferences… Solid content & pitch fests. I couldn’t comment on what kind of conference he held, but I have heard mixed reviews.

My use of these 2 photos is the only part of my original post that might be looked on as copyright infringement under “fair dealing” in the UK. I am not a lawyer, I think the claim is a little tenuous, and it would be interesting to contest that, but those photos have been removed from my post & I don’t intend to ever republish them.

Lets deal with the linking claims after this next cease & desist screenshot.

cease & desist page 2

This lawyer is really struggling with web terminology – no wonder – cookie cutter legal website with 8 links pointing to it. Just the kind of firm I would love to be advising me on online reputation management. Mr Olin, a specialist would have told you this was going to backfire.
In fact most people involved with reputation management especially after the ePerks incident will probably be shocked by my tempered reaction.

“Furthermore you have linked your forums and blogs to other websites, forums & blogs that contain notably patently false statements that [name withheld] and his business practices are a scam and that hi marketing materials are fake and/or fraudulent, or insinuations of the same.”

It is quite possible that the lawyer didn’t actually read every word I wrote, or follow the links.

Most of the links were to [name withheld] owned web properties, his media on sites such as YouTube, and one very complimentary review.
I also linked to 2 other reviews from readers whose opinion I trust, which I believe were fair and balanced.

Absolutely none of the sites I linked to claimed [name removed] was in any way a scam. At times some of the comments weren’t very complimentary, people struggling to get refunds as how to get a refund wasn’t a simple process at the time, and thus people were thanking the writer for providing the information.

As such I dispute this claim 100%, but to be honest I should have updated my post in April 2010 when certain newsworthy events took place that did warrent further commentary.

7th April 2010 ASA Adjudication on [name withheld]

2 of 3 counts upheld

The ASA isn’t “The Law” in the UK – they manage the regulations and advertisers generally listen to them, because whilst they can’t impose fines or stick you in jail, some of the sanctions that can be imposed could make some forms of doing business, especially direct mail or buying ads in newspapers pretty uncomfortable, or unprofitable.

For a direct marketer to ignore the ASA ruling would be business seppuku.

The law that their regulations are based around is The Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 – SI (Statuary Instrument) 1276 of 2008 – that is the stick used by the Office of Fair Trading.

But I didn’t write anything even though I saw the news, and had already been provided copies of the adverts that were being mailed in November/December.

I can’t imagine that [name withheld] was unaware of the complaints well before the final decision date.

But it was just an ad, ads come before the ASA all the time, it is no big deal.. slap wrist, learn from this mistake.

But then the advert continued appearing in people’s mail boxes.

Someone mailing a misleading advert that the ASA have upheld a decision on is newsworthy.

So there were a number of blog posts complaining about it, and in my personal opinion that was well justified.

SPAM = Sites Positioned Above Me

So these blog posts seem to be disrupting the sales & conversion machine. Wise business people were searching for information about [name withheld] and discovering blog posts of people complaining about advertising practice.

That must have been a big stick stuck in the gears of an otherwise well oiled marketing machine.

What to do about it?

  • Ignore it – everyone gets a bit of bad press once in a while and even I tend to admire people who push the limits and test things which might be thought acceptable in other markets
  • Make it a learning experience – admit it, even make it a marketing point & lesson freely available. There is a lot to be learnt from the whole process and it can even help open up new traffic sources.
  • Build links to positive articles – this is the classic reputation management option – find some positive articles about you and drive lots of links to them. Based upon the marketing materials of [name withheld] he has mentions in all kinds of national press, “As seen in” blah blah blah… the only problem is so far from all the claimed appearances I have only been able to find 2 very dated mentions. Not a lot for a reputation management specialist to work with. To be quite honest even my article might have been a suitable candidate assuming action had been taken to rectify a few of the isues I had found (however no action had been taken that I can find evidence of)
  • Build lots of brand domains – this is a fairly poor option unless they really have a purpose in being in the SERPs – if they are obviously just properties owned by the same person full of duplicate marketing articles the average surfer looking for information to base a decision on is just going to dig deeper.
    This was one of the actions taken by [name withheld] – either his own initiative or someone he hired – idiots
  • Build a social media presense – this is something different than just a brand domain because it could show a more human site to interested customers.. it helps if you update your Facebook once in a while, actually own your own name on Twitter etc.
    In this case facebook hasn’t been updated in ages, the Twitter account may have been run by an imposter, at the time of my post back in December it seemed it might be legitimate… though some of the content didn’t seem very typical of the overall marketing message. The Twitter account is now devoid of content.
  • Create content – press releases, authority interviews, even some article marketing… do whatever you can to build content that can then have links pointed at them.
  • Release a book – even a short one, even a ghost written one based upon a couple of your existing videos – tons of press even if it isn’t very original

So what does a leading authority on marketing who also teaches SEO do?

Yup – he hires a lawyer to send cease & desist notices to a bunch of bloggers who complained about his direct marketing tactics and the upheld decision by the ASA, and his continued mailing.

Someone involved in this is a marketing ignoramus – I don’t know who that is specifically as it is quite possibly [name withheld] isn’t the one pulling the strings on this.

Of course the saga isn’t over yet… whilst it seems lots of people have taken down their content, I think all of them are British and aren’t overly fond of unwarranted litigious tendancies, especially with the letters originating from the US.

Bad News Fills Vaccums

Bad news / Negative press tends to fill the gap in the SERPs a bit like a hydra. It can’t be killed with legal threats easily, especially when some of the coverage is probably justified.

My actions? I have removed the blog post in question, and deleted it from the one place I believe it was syndicated (automatically) – my facebook account.

As far as I am concerned just before my post I hadn’t heard of the guy, and I am quite prepared to impose permanent obscurity (which is what his lawyers seem to want) as far as my own web properties are concerned, assuming no legal action is taken against my readers… then it would be a case of taking legal consultation.

My reasons are fairly simple

I am in the middle of some marketing experiments, and I certainly wouldn’t want to upset my test data with a whole load of untargeted traffic, plus I wouldn’t want it looked on as trying to profit from a poor reputation management decision.

I don’t want the name of the person mentioned in the comments however there is something my readers can help me decide.

You see I haven’t redirected the old post to a new one yet so any potential visitors currently receive a 404 error.

I have narrowed it down to 3 options for the redirect

  • To this post (name isn’t mentioned anywhere)
  • To the ASA decision on advertising practice (stuffed with the guy’s name/trademark)
  • To a popular Rick Astley video

Nothing preculdes any of those to rank on Google, even #1 in the UK for this guy’s name/trademark in the future, without any further action on my part.

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Comments

  1. says

    Andy,

    So the letter was send to you in Poland. Now isn’t your andybeard.eu registered in UK? One more jurisdictional problem???

    Does Mr. Marketing Ignoramus (lol) really thinks this will help him? It’s a short ride from San Diego to Pleasanton – I know some one Mr. Ignoramus can talk to in Pleasanton. :)

    Keeping a close eye on how this is going to develop.

    • says

      In many ways they are fortunate

      If they had sent it to my UK addess it would have been opened by my mother, who I am quite sure would have suffered extreme duress before and after she scanned it and forwarded it to my by email.

      Fortunately it was “just” my wife.

      To be quite honest I wouldn’t mind a holiday to the Isle of Man eventually paid for in full by this gentleman though jurisdiction in theory could be Poland, and this is where I spend most of the time, the logical jurisdiction would be the UK as it would be hard for me to claim I haven’t a tie there.
      I am still officially a UK resident.

      • says

        Ok here is my vote: I say link to ASA decision….

        The ASA page already ranks on the first page of Google for his company name… At least on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

        Here is the question I have…. Why a UK based marketer would use a US Law Firm to go after another UK marketer?

        I agree with Matt, about your restraint… I hope Mr. Ignoramus will come to appreciate it as well.

        • says

          I don’t plan on linking directly, most likely just a 301 redirect of the few links Google is showing, mainly because most of my audience don’t care who he is as no matter where he lives, he is only realy relevant to a UK audience.

        • says

          Vlad, without knowing anything about the UK marketer issuing the C&D, I’m guessing it’s because his company is incorporated in the US: Delaware, Nevada, etc.

          Now I’m curious as to who this is … Andy, what does his name rhyme with?

          And don’t say “plucking flanker” – that’s just childish ;)

          Cheers

          Nick :)

  2. says

    You are possibly a wise fellow than I. Such a letter would have just been an invitation to a long fight. My pride would not have allowed me to back down if I thought I was right (and/or likely to win). I’d have set out to own the whole top ten SURPs for all related brands forever and ever amen.

    I think that you showed great restraint.

  3. Maxoud says

    From information I’ve found in Internet about this person just now, seems he is kind of newly minted Frank Abagnale.
    I’m happy to link to both first and second pages mentioned.

  4. says

    The UK fair dealing provisions are mostly about reuse of ” literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work” I think. Not sure it applies to beermats (or coat hangers, or pens or mousemats or any other lame marketing techniques). This sounds a similar sort of case: http://www.out-law.com/page-8624

    Of course, if you had used his Twitter avatar and called it via the API (as opposed to copying / downloading it), I think you’d be fine. Just downloading his image probably breaches his copyright and is unlikely to be necessary to write your blogpost and so isn’t fair dealing. However, calling it via the API would bring the Twitter TOS into play, which has various clauses allowing people to do what they want – although, again, if he’d complained about copyright breach Twitter would have removed it / stopped your account.

    • says

      Yes I actually read that on Outlaw a couple of days ago.

      http://www.copyright.org.uk/copyright/p27_work_of_others

      I believe my use of the beer mat would come under this

      Criticism or review

      Quoting parts of a work for the purpose of criticism or review is permitted provided that:

      The work has been made available to the public.
      The source of the material is acknowledged.
      The material quoted must be accompanied by some actual discussion or assessment (to warrant the criticism or review classification).
      The amount of the material quoted is no more than is necessary for the purpose of the review.

      More to the point I believe I am not actually the primary target of this, just a little caught in the cross-fire – the primary target is any article regarding the ASA decision, because [name withheld] seems to be a little critical about the advertsing industry as a whole.

      The copyright infringement claims might have been primarily drafted to get scans of the tear sheet with postit note that he used removed from the net.

      Before Twitter people were doing blog posts about memorable MyBlogLog avatars, and then of course even with Twitter how many people have Twitter backgrounds made up of the avatars of 100s of their followers?
      How many people create posts of X people to follow and include their public images or avatars?

      Does a photo that is distributed as a beer mat, effectively as a logo retain the same protection as a photo on its own?

      Photos have different protection

      News reporting

      Using material for the purpose of reporting current events is permitted provided that:

      The work is not a photograph.
      The source of the material is acknowledged.
      The amount of the material quoted is no more than is necessary for the purpose.

      In many ways this post is intended

      As a warning for people who do use images without express permission, even Twitter avatars (without using the API)
      To question how fair dealing can be applied in social media and in regards to critical review for advrtising.

      I have scans on my laptop sent from multiple sources of the advertising material that the ASA didn’t like but haven’t published it, thugh others have and guess what? One of the things the ASA questioned was the use of a photograph right in the middle of it as to whether it was a testimonial – that was the one part of the complaint which wasn’t upheld.
      But would that prevent the advertising material being published as a whole… just like the beer mat I published?

      • says

        Here is another case covering US fair use of a photo in a book for a review and also commentary about how that would be applied as fair dealing.

        http://www.out-law.com/page-7192

        And of course if this was US jurisdiction I could counter claim
        http://www.out-law.com/default.aspx?page=9375

        A US court has ruled that it is the duty of copyright holders to make a basic assessment of whether fair use is being made of material or not. If they do not then whoever published the material can sue them.

      • says

        I can’t read the original post, obviously, but I’m not sure your use of the beermat would be covered as it’s not the beermat you’re reviewing. The beermat is, it sounds like, a nice-to-have illustration of his advertising. It’s not essential that it be reproduced for your review of his conferences to be properly understood.

        Also, the Act is a bit unclear as it suddently starts talking about “works” at the point you’re quoting, whereas previously it had talked about specifically artistic works. Are we to read anything in to the dropping of “artistic” or is it just badly drafted law?

        Your point about use of avatars etc is a good one. In fact, the reason I’m so interested in all this, is that recently someone featured on my good/bad twitter avatar post (http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/twitter-avatars-choosing/) asked me to remove theirs as an example as I didn’t have their permission to use it.

        I complied as I it was an unimportant matter. And the avatar is her copyright, so at first glance she’s entitled to do this.

        However, I think I probably AM covered by fair dealing as I’m specifically reviewing her avatar – my review doesn’t make any sense if you can’t see it. Plus if I’d used the API to make the avatar appear, I’m not she could object as she’s given consent for that by using Twitter (but that wouldn’t cover what I had done for that blog post which was straight downloading).

        It’s all quite complicated – and as you imply. most people have no idea about the rules for all this (hardly a surprise as none of it has really been tested in the courts, at least in the UK).

        • says

          The beermat was being used as an example, in a complimentary manner of creative use of offline advertising.

          My motivation for including it? To be quite honest it was to balance the post and to show the subject in a more positive manner as I do respect and maybe even applaud some of his offline marketing creativity, despite what the ASA think.
          It would be even more essential to include it for balance if I was to have also included a scan of the marketing material that the ASA have upheld a complaint about.

          There wasn’t as much commentary in the initial post about the specific beermat as might be required to use the work on its own, but in context of the remainder of the content it worked well.
          Plus as is normally the case, more than half the commentary appears in the comments, though that post was published while people were Christmas shopping in the UK, and fell a little flat.

          I could have just stuck to reviewing [name withheld] online marketing activities, but that to be quite honest wouldn’t have portrayed him in a positive light.
          He excels at using offline marketing to drive traffic to online direct response sales letters.

          1. I didn’t have a copy of the adverts he uses in various national newspapers
          2. I didn’t have a copy of the material the ASA complained about – a tear sheet with a postit not from a friend in the corner
          3. Despite supposedly teaching about using Adwords, I couldn’t find even one example of an Adwords ad he is using to drive traffic to his own websites.
          4. I did have a copy of beer mat artwork that I credited to the beer mat printing company that had it on display on their website.

          • says

            I did have a copy of beer mat artwork that I credited to the beer mat printing company that had it on display on their website.

            Interesting (maybe not to anyone else by this point …). I suspect he still owned the copyright in it rather than the printers – it’s a bit like when James Hewitt tried to sell the papers some letters to him from Lady Di – but actually her estate owned the copyright to the contents.

  5. says

    It’s unfortunate that in a day and age where people think they’re so clever will still react with a C&D when they don’t even fully understand the situation. I can’t imagine how expensive it was for the individual in question to get a letter written up and sent over to you – all for the sake of making a few measly pounds.

    I really hope for your sake and also, I’m going to be a bit cliche here, for the sake of humanity you get a positive response and own the dude. People need to realise that they can’t just sue anyone who treads on their lawn.

    • says

      Well there is a different perspective on cost.

      Potential clients are being asked to pay $3000 to attend a conference, thus there is a lot of friction to overcome.

      If there are lots of negative news stories in the search engines for your personal/brand name, those people are not going to buy, or will be more sceptical.

      I am sure the commercial damaged caused by the marketing campaign being poorly received by some, the verdict by the ASA, and the later complaints (in my mind legitimately) of people receiving that very same mailing after the ASA decision, are greater than the cost of the lawyer, especially when with Trademark you have to be seen to commercially defend them.

      However the correct way to handle bad news in the search engines is to fill it up with good news, understanding, compassion, alternative points of view etc.
      Just imagine if BP was sending cease & desist letters to anyone who criticised it and used their logo (I have no idea if they have – not following the story, but I imagine there would be an uproar)

  6. Online auction sites says

    This is all just stupidity from the British marketer and the law firm. you have some solid points to hire a good lawyer and win this case…

  7. says

    I hope you have written a plugin, to switch over [name removed] to his name when the time comes…

    hmm thats an interesting idea for the legally challenged

    • says

      I am not sure whether that would class as over engineering things (search & replace has no code bloat), or maybe under engineering.

      There are some really creative things that can be done.

  8. says

    Andy I commend your “staying” ability in such a situation. People like us write for the simple fact that we “feel” the events around us and when some stubborn attitude starts accusing of things we could never even dream doing,it becomes a bit heavy to carry on !
    Further, I feel that with some people out there fanning this thing up only gives a genuine writer like you a further firm ground (and gives publicity too).
    Who complains if they give you publicity? Most of your readers know who you are so this is only going to add on to your support numbers :)

  9. says

    Andy,

    Many thanks for posting this. I didn’t see your original post, but was easily able to deduce from the ASA website who you were referring to. I too received one of his “clever” marketing mailings and thought at the time that he was pushing the boundaries of the ASA guidelines a little.

    I’m also glad that I decided NOT to invest in his training conference in London this month as in my opinion, he’s not the kind of person I want to do business with.

    -John.

    • says

      I am of mixed opinions about pushing boundaries.

      Some of what I am testing for a marketing product in some ways is pushing boundaries because I am doing things there are no rules for.

      In some ways I even defied the “decision” of an “authority” in the past – Google decided the reviews I was writing were paid links and took away some of my green pixels. I didn’t use nofollow initially to block the links, I blocked the whole articles with robots.txt which meant all syndicated copies wouldn’t have nofollow in them.

      The ASA in some ways is a bit like Google, both are not the government. The difference is they are appointed by the government as a way for an industry to self-police themselves, as if everything had to end up in court, decisions would take forever, cost far more, and be judged by people who are not familiar with the industry.

      Whilst the ASA is funded by the advertising industry, the money is anonymous so it can’t be used for leverage.

      As to the conference, I really can’t comment – the value people gain from attending such events depends on their business and how they implement what they learn. Normally even pitch fests have some value to leverage, even just for networking.

  10. says

    Welcome to the Big Leagues Andy. ;-)
    My vote is for Rick Astley.
    Good luck buddy! Hope it’s the last of nonsense like this.

  11. says

    I had one of those from some salad dodger who thought he was the only company called Top Rank….

    Quite amusing really as I was just rebranding.

    What the guy doesn’t know is he’s got a letter on the way too.

    David

  12. says

    Thank you, for such a clear and comprehensive post. Since I’ve been reading you, I feel I have begun to understand more about this topic. Please keep writing. I just hope people are listening to you and reading you.

  13. says

    Andy ::

    I’d really love to see a non-redacted copy of this letter. This is the sort of situation in which I like to insert myself. Shoot me an email if that’s possible.

    In my opinion … you should put your post back up and tell this hack lawyer to go to hell. My guess is that there is almost no chance of any action other than hollow and poorly reasoned threats.

  14. James says

    If it were me, I’d advise them in no uncertain terms to blow off.

    It’s called “Fair Use” in the USA, and that attorney KNOWS you have great latitude because of it. I consider it all posturing and intimidation, and personally, I would not be swayed. In fact, I would have named names, but I appreciate why you did not.

    Trying to intimidate you via legal threats which would probably easily be thrown out if defended…that’s not particularly wise. Especially since on the internet, word tends to get around (and support mustered up) when someone attempts to silence a blogger.

    Stand firm.

  15. Dan Thies says

    Andy,

    If “Name Withheld” wanted to deal with copyright issues, you’re easy to reach. This is nothing more, and nothing less than an attempt to intimidate you and stifle free expression.

    I appreciate your reluctance to name and shame, but if someone ever sends me one o’ those, they’ll have a VERY short window to apologize and throw their lawyers under a large bus.

    I don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinions all the time (Hi, Salty Droid) but they damned sure have a right to say what’s on their minds.

    • says

      I would liken it more to a game of Frogger – buses & lorries go in multiple directions

      The short version

      1. I have nothing to gain from it other than a few links – I know a few people who have leveraged being taken to court into something positive but there is risk.
      2. It is a business distraction I really don’t need at the moment
      3. WsMD – Weapons of Social Media Destruction – some of the ideas I have for internet memes would be highly destructive to [name withheld] and his business, the problem is they would cause a level of brand destruction similar to the cleanup job BP currently have to face – despite teaching some stuff about SEO, he isn’t really a SEO expert thus I am assuming at this time he is geting some poor advice. Once you let the Djinni out of the bottle it is hard to put it back inside.
      4. There are multiple people in the ring with an interest… Dan Kennedy & Bill Glazer seem to have lent him a hand in defending this – there is at least one other marketer who I respect who has a PPC module from [name withheld] within his core package. The branding by association game is a 2 way street and some of the intersections in relationships could leave permanent scars.
      5. Whilst a few people have taken material offline, the new wave isn’t at all positive and is much harder to defend against. The Register for instance isn’t going to remove their content
      6. As explained, I did include a number of images and whilst I believe I would have a reasonably strong case in court if it came to it, images are funny things, just look at the drama about that iconic Obama poster.

  16. says

    Although I never read your initial review, it sounds like it was quite fair and even-handed. Which is why I can’t believe this guy hired lawyers to send out C&D letters. Will it backfire? It already has… and probably will continue to backfire for a few more weeks/months/years.

    My favorite line from this post: “Bad news / Negative press tends to fill the gap in the SERPs a bit like a hydra.” Excellent observation.

    Ryan

    • says

      I do try to be fair even when I include some criticism – the biggest thing I objected to at the time was the suggestion on one of his sites that Google’s war on paid links was somehow “news” and the way his home page on a membership site needed to change the way the date script was being used to reduce that false impression.

      The most stupid thing in all of this is I am possibly one of the few bloggers who would have been quite willing to in some ways defend his marketing strategy, though I wouldn’t defend ignoring the ASA.

      The J Letter technique has been around for years and there are tons of companies that specialize in creating the marketing materials.
      I don’t know whether Halbert originated it (as you suggested in the comments on Salty’s post), though it was certainly covered in his teaching.

      In all the samples I have seen they in some way disclose that it is an advert. In some examples it is quite cleverly done using other fake adverts on the page, though those get complaints from readers and adverts pulled by magazines and newspapers looking to please their readers.

      It is also where all the fake news blogs originated from used for pimping scammy weight-loss CPA offers, though those haven’t yet fully mastered all the subtle techniques used by offline marketers with personalization.
      Direct mail pieces can use tons of personal data that just isn’t yet available onine when marketing to an “anonymous” visitor.

      The difference between using an advertorial in a newspaper/magazine & using a J Letter with a tear sheet is editorial control and accountability.

      Even on the web if you create a bad experience for users, the advertising platforms are likely to get a little upset, as seems happened with Adwords last year.

      I suppose that is where the ASA comes in with direct mail

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