Ethical Dilemma

by Jill Carpenter 21 replies
Ugh, I am going to do something, but I thought I'd pick all your gray matter in here first.

I am promoting a product, it is pretty much on autopilot, I have seen the product, and I know it is "ok."

It is an IM product, and generally steers people toward a bum marketing style of promotion.

I get my sign-ups by providing a simple "trick" that is not discussed immediately in the product. I have been building a nice list from this product - whether some buy or not.

The product has a great sales page, and a picture of the product creator.

I just got an email from a new subscriber that they have seen the picture elsewhere, and it is a stock photo. This subscriber was kind enough to provide a link to one of the places where this picture had been used before. The subscriber was also furious (seems they have been going around in circles), and unsubscribed from my list.

I come from a background of having promoted something initially (a diet) that turned out not only to be a hazardous product (encouraged eating disorders) but initially we discovered that the owner used fake pictures (morbidly obese woman uses Russian bride pics) but also used fake pictures for all her initial testimonials.

I have been involved with a group and a lawsuit to bring down this diet product. Part of the lawsuit is the fraud/misrepresentation of the diet creator. This is all based obviously on the photos that were provided.

So here I am faced with another product - which I didn't find it as important as what the person looked like. For all I know, this could be a 90 year old man sitting at home in his underwear. The product itself is not hazardous, and obviously this person does not want to be seen for one reason or another. The story given is that they are a twenty something year old female - and there is the cutest pic used.

I am thinking to do a post on this, but I'd like to know your thoughts.

How important is it that the picture used of a product creator is really them if the product itself has nothing to do with how a person looks? Please factor in that the product itself is just fine - and is not a "scam."

And ethically, would you continue to promote a product that is making you money, getting you sign-ups, and the only problem is the picture is a stock photo?
#main internet marketing discussion forum #dilemma #ethical
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  • Profile picture of the author martinp
    I come from a background of having promoted something initially (a diet) that turned out not only to be a hazardous product (encouraged eating disorders) but initially we discovered that the owner used fake pictures (morbidly obese woman uses Russian bride pics) but also used fake pictures for all her initial testimonials.
    Unfortunately I know the story of this one only too well as I promoted it myself - I was disgusted at how it turned out, plus the fact it's still being sold.

    How important is it that the picture used of a product creator is really them if the product itself has nothing to do with how a person looks? Please factor in that the product itself is just fine - and is not a "scam."

    And ethically, would you continue to promote a product that is making you money, getting you sign-ups, and the only problem is the picture is a stock photo?
    This is a whole different situation to the one above seeing as the product is actually good. I personally wouldn't put my own picture on a product, so therefore I'd either be faced with having to use a stock photo or none at all. I choose to go with none because stock photos are all too easy to find.

    When it comes to promoting a product - I promote a few that have 'product creator' photos. Whether they're real or not I don't know. I base my decision to promote a product on whether or not it's good (I do buy and test products). I would probably not be happy if I found out one was a stock photo - but I don't think it'd stop me promoting the product as long as my customers were happy.

    I would say the vast majority of products on Clickbank are marketed either with a stock photo, a fictitious character or a fictitious story. That just seems to be the way it's done - doesn't make it right though I guess.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jill Carpenter
      There is another irony in this situation. The headline in the banner of this product says "online money making scams exposed"

      LOL

      Thanks for your reply martinp. I hope you did not suffer any of the side effects from the evil diet. I was most recently accused of doing things in her deposition which I did not do. She is truly deranged.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kevin Riley
        I'm continually preaching transparency. I don't see why marketers want to hide behind personas and fake pictures. It is not conducive to trust.
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        • Profile picture of the author Kim Standerline
          Originally Posted by Kevin Riley View Post

          I'm continually preaching transparency. I don't see why marketers want to hide behind personas and fake pictures. It is not conducive to trust.
          Agree entirely kevin

          Having said that, I can't see the harm in using a stock photo as long as it isn't said definatively that its the author.

          If I remember correctly, wasn't there a storm in a teacup about Michael Campbell doing this a couple of years ago.

          Sometimes people want to keep their true identity off the internet. (I considered it myself when I first started online). Can't do that if u have your mug plastered all over it.

          Kim
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          • Profile picture of the author Kevin Riley
            Originally Posted by Kim Standerline View Post

            Agree entirely kevin

            Having said that, I can't see the harm in using a stock photo as long as it isn't said definatively that its the author.

            If I remember correctly, wasn't there a storm in a teacup about Michael Campbell doing this a couple of years ago.

            Sometimes people want to keep their true identity off the internet. (I considered it myself when I first started online). Can't do that if u have your mug plastered all over it.

            Kim
            Not a problem if you're using models for covers or images in book, but on the author's page it better be the author or nothing.
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        • Profile picture of the author Kim Standerline
          Originally Posted by cosmokid View Post

          Years ago I was in meetings with the editor of Self, a popular woman's magazine here in the U.S. The editor in chief was a lovely, warm, intelligent "Jewish mom" type - a bit plump, middle-aged, and not a supermodel. She had recently come on board as the new editor.

          For a few issues they used her actual photo in the "Notes from the Editor' page.

          Then I noticed within a year they started using photos of a younger, supermodel blonde type. I'm not sure if the same nice brunette is still the editor there but this blonde photo ran in the magazine for years next to the REAL editor's monthly notes.

          I think people need to realize that we've become conditioned to a certain standard of "looks" due to the way supermodels, Playboy bunnies, etc. are thrown at us every day. And men deal with this too. A guy with unconventional looks will not generally make as favorable of a first impression with people, unfortunately - it's simply a fact of life. And in IM we have about - what - ten seconds? - to grab a sale and keep people's interest.

          Jennifer
          Funny you should say that

          I love a mag over here in the UK called Love It and to be honest my fave bit is the editorial.

          The photo next to it is of this warm plump blowsy blonde. the first time I ever saw it I can remember being surprised. (Still not quite sure about even now)

          Kim
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        • Profile picture of the author AndrewCavanagh
          It keeps happening to you because you're not putting in the effort to be 100% certain that the products you're selling are premium quality.

          If you're going to promote a product created by someone else you need to do your due diligence.

          You need to know the product delivers on its promises in a way that won't bring any harm to your clients and you need to know the person who created the product is a person of integrity.

          I thought that would be obvious.

          And if you agree with what I'm saying here then your course of action should be obvious too.

          Kindest regards,
          Andrew Cavanagh
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          • Profile picture of the author Jill Carpenter
            Originally Posted by AndrewCavanagh View Post

            It keeps happening to you because you're not putting in the effort to be 100% certain that the products you're selling are premium quality.

            If you're going to promote a product created by someone else you need to do your due diligence.

            You need to know the product delivers on its promises in a way that won't bring any harm to your clients and you need to know the person who created the product is a person of integrity.

            I thought that would be obvious.

            And if you agree with what I'm saying here then your course of action should be obvious too.

            Kindest regards,
            Andrew Cavanagh
            With the exception of actually showing up at someones door, I do investigate my products. That first one - the diet - has me doing that. There were a lot of people scammed by that situation and it is a very touchy subject.

            On this other particular product I bought it, I went through it, there is no harm. Like I said, aside from showing up on the persons door step how am I to know there was a fake pic used? I even use another program now called tineye - but that only looks for files with the same name, and can not identify pixels.

            I put more than 100% into what I do.
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        • Profile picture of the author Jill Carpenter
          Originally Posted by Kevin Riley View Post

          I'm continually preaching transparency. I don't see why marketers want to hide behind personas and fake pictures. It is not conducive to trust.
          I have already exposed myself using video. That makes it extremely hard for me to lie about who I am if I want to use my name on something.

          The problem here is people who want to promote many types of products. I can't put down the use of pen names. Strangely, I have not used pen names in articles yet.

          How many niches can I have my face on before someone thinks I'm crazy? Can I really be an expert on many different things and be taken seriously?
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        • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
          Why do people use pen names? Why is using a "pen" picture any different? You only know about this example because someone found the photo on a stock photo site; but what if they had used a picture of a friend or neighbor, how would you know then?

          I think it comes down to whether they are using the photo to deceive, or for legitimate reasons (privacy, they don't think they're attractive, etc.).

          I read a story once (a long time ago) about a guy that had a reasonably successful website. He was told putting his picture on the site would increase sales, so he did it. Sales dropped dramatically. If I remember right, I think he took the photo off and sales went back up. I don't recall where I read that story, or know how true it may have been, but if I heard it, no doubt others might have as well. If that's the case, some people may be concerned that their photo might do the same. So, they use someone else's.

          Regarding the diet program, is that a ClickBank product? If so, could someone PM me what it is? I have a website in the diet niche, and I promote a couple ClickBank products but I don't want to promote a product that's going to be hazardous to anyone's health.
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          • Profile picture of the author Keith Boisvert
            I have already exposed myself using video
            You might want to take that video down then!!

            LOL. Just kidding.

            I am a big fan of ethical marketing and all that goes along with it. This appears to be in the Grey area. As stated, if the picture is clearly marked as the "author" then yes, it is unethical.

            If not, then I see nothing wrong with it, so long as it is a great product you recommend.

            Keith
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          • Profile picture of the author Jill Carpenter
            Originally Posted by Dan C. Rinnert View Post

            Why do people use pen names? Why is using a "pen" picture any different? You only know about this example because someone found the photo on a stock photo site; but what if they had used a picture of a friend or neighbor, how would you know then?

            I think it comes down to whether they are using the photo to deceive, or for legitimate reasons (privacy, they don't think they're attractive, etc.).

            I read a story once (a long time ago) about a guy that had a reasonably successful website. He was told putting his picture on the site would increase sales, so he did it. Sales dropped dramatically. If I remember right, I think he took the photo off and sales went back up. I don't recall where I read that story, or know how true it may have been, but if I heard it, no doubt others might have as well. If that's the case, some people may be concerned that their photo might do the same. So, they use someone else's.

            Regarding the diet program, is that a ClickBank product? If so, could someone PM me what it is? I have a website in the diet niche, and I promote a couple ClickBank products but I don't want to promote a product that's going to be hazardous to anyone's health.
            No, the diet is sold directly by the creator. Be wary of anything with the name "kimkins" on it. And if you're really bored one day, google it and see how many bloggers have taken up the cause. Internet history is being made. And hopefully a 404 page is in the future of the site.
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        • Profile picture of the author Erum Munir
          There is also the question of whether the photo license allows this kind of use. Photos with models in them have more restrictive rights most of the time. Using a photo in a website design is a different thing but saying it is yours ... wonder if that falls within the rights.
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  • Profile picture of the author Eric Lorence
    Stock photos when recognized will take a lot from your credibility, take pictures of yourself or people you know instead. Contact the product creator and ask to use their own, and so on.

    Or avoid using them at all.

    If your serious about the promotion, hire a professional photographer.

    Best!
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    • Profile picture of the author Jill Carpenter
      Originally Posted by eslorence View Post

      Stock photos when recognized will take a lot from your credibility, take pictures of yourself or people you know instead. Contact the product creator and ask to use their own, and so on.

      Or avoid using them at all.

      If your serious about the promotion, hire a professional photographer.

      Best!
      I emailed the creator a few days ago when I first got the email about the picture. I have not heard back. Initially, I did not have a link to another site using the pic. Now that I do I may forward the information and see how they respond.

      I put a lot of work into getting out the initial word on this product, so it will really sting if I have to dump it.

      I'm also debating a shout out to my list. What they don't know won't hurt them? This is another question.

      Why does this keep happening to me???

      I have to laugh to keep my sanity.

      I feel like I keep trying to build things up, and something keeps coming along to rip it all down.
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  • I think the picture here is irrelevant.

    Is a fake picture deceptive? Of course, but the vast majority of marketing and advertising is dedicated to deception, so this is hardly unusual and on the contrary is actually very much the norm.

    The way I see it, the big question is whether or not the diet product in question actually works or, even worse, if it is harmful to the user.

    Based on what I know about the diet industry, the product is almost certainly bogus as there are very few good, reliable diets out there.

    Unless you can find out otherwise, you should assume that you are selling a bunch of BS.

    If scamming people bothers you then you should probably discontinue selling this product.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jill Carpenter
      Originally Posted by Zachary R. Skinner View Post

      I think the picture here is irrelevant.

      Is a fake picture deceptive? Of course, but the vast majority of marketing and advertising is dedicated to deception, so this is hardly unusual and on the contrary is actually very much the norm.

      The way I see it, the big question is whether or not the diet product in question actually works or, even worse, if it is harmful to the user.

      Based on what I know about the diet industry, the product is almost certainly bogus as there are very few good, reliable diets out there.

      Unless you can find out otherwise, you should assume that you are selling a bunch of BS.

      If scamming people bothers you then you should probably discontinue selling this product.
      Ok, we are not discussing the diet here although the diet was my initial experience so I'll give you a brief history on that.

      I found the diet online. I DID the diet myself. I lost a lot of weight very fast (roughly 60 lbs in 4 months). It "worked" for me so I sold the diet. I used in my personal promotion only my real experience and photos. I found real testimonials from others on the site who were also sucessful. I did nothing to try to scam or disillusion my audience.

      I found out later that the creator had faked her pictures. The diet was even featured in Womans World Magazine (not that that is the NY times or anything) and FAKE pictures were provided to that magazine and used as well.

      Then I found I was losing a lot of hair. Then I crunched the numbers and analyzed the advice given by the obese diet guru, and realized her information was dangerous. When you are high on losing weight and looking good it is a tough pill to swallow. It messes with your head. There was something like 30 testimonials used by the fake diet guru that were all faked, and the diet guru had claimed she had maintained her loses for 5 years with no ill side effects. Our current class action lawsuit isn't even about the dangers of the diet. It is about the fraud used to pull in the members meaning fake story, fake pictures, and many of us getting banned from our life time membership when we started to ask questions on the safety of the diet and the validity of the founders pictures.


      I try to stay away from health/diet products at this point.

      Now, the product I am talking about today is an IM product. No one is going to get sick from using this ebook and other stuff in the product. The product itself works, the methods work, there is a money back guarantee, it is a paydotcom product, and I suspect like many clickbank or paydotcom products it uses stock photos in the sales page.

      No where on the sales page does the gal say "this is a photo of me" but the head shot of a blond girl smiling does appear and next to it reads "Hi! My name is (blah blah blah) and before I tell you all about how my system works and why this IS one of very few programs that actually works, I think it's important you know who I am."

      So the assumption is that the pic next to those words is the gal selling the program. No where does it say "you will look just like me in this picture if you buy my product."
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    • Profile picture of the author Simon_Sezs
      Originally Posted by Zachary R. Skinner View Post

      I think the picture here is irrelevant.

      Is a fake picture deceptive? Of course, but the vast majority of marketing and advertising is dedicated to deception, so this is hardly unusual and on the contrary is actually very much the norm.
      I am sure this opinion is going to put me in the minority here and I know I am not going to earn any brownie points for going "there", but I have to agree with Zach here when he says that the vast majority of marketing and advertising is dedicated to deception and frankly, unless your intent is to become gurulicious (you want a following that recognizes your name and face), then a picture of the true "you" is not necessarily needed.

      I promote things from rhapsody (MP3 service) to weight loss products to pet products to make money online products to gambling products. I also dabble in the WAHM market and sell baby stuff and women's products. Almost every product I push has a different face and pen name, to sell products. (after all, who is going to buy bras or make-up from a 35 year man?).

      Like it or not, deception is part of the game and as long as the product delivers, I can't see why it is important to be ultra transparent.....After all, you are gunning for sales, not "friends".....

      Pictures can increase sales. They can also decrease sales if the target market won't buy or would be less likely to buy b/c you are the wrong demographic.

      Even Frank Kern has used pen names for his pet products....you have to wonder if he used his face to push the product (I would bet that he didn't...but I bet he used someone's face because it is proven that pictures do increase conversion rates)
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