July 30, 2004

The Dark Side of Online Ads

Prankster uses plastic wrap as road trap. That was the headline on CNN one day last week. It tells the story of how some dingbats in Wisconsin made an invisible barrier across a two-lane road and caused a motorcycle accident. If you click on the link now that it's in the archives, you'll see some benign ads for credit reports and home equity loans.

But if you read the story on July 18th you would have seen the ads generated automatically by Overture's software scanning the content of the article. The story was about plastic wrap, so Overture dutifully ponied up these ads: "Plastic Stretch Wrap Equipment Experts"; "Plastic Wrap - Low, Discount Prices"; "Plastic Stretch Wrap Shipped Today". Click the image to the right to see the original story.


How perfect! If you were inspired by the sheer genius of this prank, CNN was there to provide the resources you need to launch a copycat crime wave.

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