InstantCheckMate.com & Their Misleading #PPC Ad Copy Smear Tactic
This evening in London, I was curious how locally personalized mobile search results looked for my name. Like many people I indulge in vanity searches for my name from time to time, especially when traveling.
Imagine my surprise to see the InstantCheckMate mobile pay per click ad at at the bottom of my search results (header image). Wow! The headline read: “Marty Weintraub: Truth.” The body copy was “Arrests and Much More. Everything About Marty Weintraub.” Several background check sites buy people’s names. This ad was bothersome because it did not make it clear whether a specific Marty Weintraub or multiple Marty Weintraubs were arrested. It implied that Marty Weintraub was arrested. Period. If you’re not one of the arrested Martys, then this could be a reputation management problem.
Let’s follow this result down the PPC rat hole to see how many clicks it takes to clear my name. The next screen is even more ominous. The verbiage is seductive because, in addition to hyperbole about how shocking the results may be, Instant CheckMate admonishes that the data can’t be used for a some purposes. The disclaimer reads Instant CheckMate “does not provide consumer reports and is not a consumer reporting agency. You may not use our service or the information it provides to make decisions about consumer credit, employment, insurance, tenant screening, or any other purpose that would require FCRA compliance.” FCRA is the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which regulates and protects what sort of data can be used in evaluating someone without their consent. InstanceCheckMate.com states the data is “real” and dates back several decades.
The third screen still does not exonerate my name. Users are required to search again for their quarry’s name again. I entered my name and hit search.
The screen that shows during the search reassures users that the query is anonymous, just in case the person conducting the search does not want anyone to know the search took place. Of course, there are no records returned for me — this “Marty Weintraub.”
So, what’s wrong with this tactic?
- The headline presumes guilt. Sure, it’s about all people named Marty Weintraub but does nothing to clarify this for users. A user searching for a specific person may assume that the person they seek is guilty until proven otherwise. This is great for InstantCheckMate.com and terrible for innocent people.
- It takes four screens and three clicks to discover whether the person’s name queried has an arrest record or not. Ick. If InstantCheckMate is going to smear by implication, then get to the freakin’ point.
- The fact that similar sites also buy individual’s names does not mitigate how scummy this ad copy is.
- Other background check sites seem to be more conservative so as not to accidentally invite misunderstanding. Look at the image at the top of this post and you’ll see the difference.
Pathology Of A Creative Bottom Feeder
InstantCheckMate.com has stepped up their PPC buying (data via SpyFu)
It is not clear what it takes to get on their PPC marketing list. If you are on the list then those who search Google for your name may be greeted with ad copy that implies you have been arrested, even if you have not been.
We’re not the first to raise issues about InstantCheckMate.com. There is a BBB complaint. Click on “! There is an alert for this business !” There are other blemishes to InstantCheckMate’s reputation we don’t want to link to.
Instant Checkmate Inc. USA is located in Las Vegas, NV. We call on them to change their creative practices and wonder if the FTC, keepers of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, would be happy at this level of implied guilt in the search engine PPC results.