Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) tech charity initiative has a new competitor from the most unlikely of places - Rupert Murdoch's MySpace, in conjunction with... gee... well, it seems to be I-Deal Direct, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois, operating under the domain name of ShoppingSaverCenter.biz.
Previously not very well known in charitable circles, it seems that I-Deal Direct is using News Corp's global youth MySpace audience to help supply free laptops to Australian children previously only able to login to their MySpace homepage via a shared family PC, a PC at school, or perhaps a PC at their local library.
The ad makes it seem like only the one millionth Australian visitor to the MySpace homepage will be given a free laptop, but it seems like I-Deal Direct has since massively broadened the offer to include every young Australian who visits MySpace, since the ad appears again and again, on every MySpace account I created in my testing.
In fact, not content with providing a free laptop to every young Australian, I discovered upon clicking-thru (I will delete my cookies) that I-Deal Direct is also going to supply them with free big-screen LCD or plasma TVs. That's a laptop, and a free big-screen TV, for every Aussie kid who clicks on the ad... hmm...
Because of course, reading the fine print on the landing pages, I-Deal Direct is engaged in shady harvesting of email addresses and demographic information.
While stating you need to be 18 or over to participate in its 'program', I-Deal Direct leaves that checkbox ticked so you don't have to untick it, and then when it captures all your name and address details, doesn't include birthdates after 1989, so there's no way you could tell them you were under-age if you wanted to. Click on from there and you are presented with a seemingly endless scrolling page of opt-in and opt-out offers from hundreds of different marketers. It seems like I-Deal Direct has aggregated every online offer-based affiliate marketing program in existence and is intent upon walking you through them in succession (including (I add with some considerable embarassment and annoyance) an offer for Quickflix, an online DVD rental business of which I am a shareholder.)
Click 'submit' on one and the page refreshes to introduce another offer. I lost count of the pages I clicked through. And when I tried to leave, a bunch of pop-up and pop-under windows tried to dissuade me with just one more (and then just one more) unmissable offer. Who else but a teenage kid is likely to keep entering in their details, those of their friends and family, in the vain hope of qualifying for some of the free stuff they saw in the ad on MySpace?
I don't mean to pick on I-Deal Direct. After all, there is a sucker born every minute, and this is certainly not the only shonky marketing data collection agency marketing online. It's just that I'd like to be more certain that I-Deal Direct were waiting until the suckers were over 18 if they weren't using MySpace so prominently.
And I'm more than a little disappointed with MySpace and News Corp. You'd never expect to see a bottom-feeder advertiser like this on the homepage of news.com.au or foxsports.com.au for a variety of reasons - it cheapens the masthead brand, risks the relationship with the consumer, and lowers your apparent CPM amongst other marketers. It also makes you look just plain shoddy.
If it's too shonky for Australian adults, we should definitely not be seeing this kind of 'scamarketer' on MySpace - the largest single online destination for Australian kids. If I were a premium youth brand marketer, I wouldn't want my brand anywhere near this on MySpace.
Excuse me, I need to go wash my hands and delete my cookies.