Advertising Tricks Using GeoIP

This story does not make web advertisers look good, although it’s almost so obviously phony that it barely warrants mentioning.

I randomly clicked on an island ad on a site that I was visiting (I sometimes do this to give them a click-through and show some support).

I got sent to the URL http://www.newswebdaily.com/health/white-teeth/index1.php, which then redirects to a new URL with a few different parameters in the query string.

It’s an ad that tells the story of Becky Bell, a teacher who wanted to try a teeth-whitening product:

For a split second, I thought “wow, that’s weird – she’s in Brisbane, Queensland, just like me!” Then I decided that seemed a bit too much like a coincidence, so I activated my US-based proxy server (handy for web development and testing) and got the following page:

So, to be crystal clear – this ad changes based on the location that you are viewing the page from, presumably to give you some feeling of confidence that it was a “local gal” that benefited from this product. Clearly, Becky Bell is not from Brisbane and Dallas at the same time.

Moral of the story: beware of advertising that just so happens to have your exact city and country in it like this.

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