Ten Lessons Learned from Flogs & ReBill Offers
Every couple of years there is a new marketing craze that just takes over, and is marketed every where. Years ago it was banner ads with games, to make the user click. Then it was email submits… now it’s the flog craze. A “flog” is a fake blog that is created to sell a product (usually CPA), and provides fake testimonials to entice the visitor to purchase the product. The flog craze is happening all over, because it is working so well. Affiliate marketers are building convincing sites, buying mass traffic on CPM/CPV, and making hefty ROI with commissions in the $40+ range. Whether you are personally promoting these types of offers or not, there are plenty of lessons to be learned… here are ten of them.
1.) You Can Get Away with Murder… but for how long?
Who would have thought you could promote a product endorsed by Oprah, Rachel Ray and Dr. Oz, without them ever knowing, granting permission or even having to pay for their picture use? It’s amazing, but it’s been going on strong for well over a year now on the flog scene. It all started with Oprah and Dr. Oz talking about the benefits of Acai on the Oprah show. Now clips and snippets from the show appear on blogs, making it look like these mentions actually endorse the products. To bring things to an even higher extreme, celebrities have actually been used in the ad copy for pushing these products. The result? Killer click through rates and conversions! The question is, how long will this last, and will action ever be taken? The value behind using these celebrities pictures and “fake” endorsements is priceless, and has played a big part in the massive growth and conversions on these offers.
2.) CPM & CPV Gets a Boost
Buying advertisement space on a pay per view basis has been around forever, but now that affiliates have created flogs which target to almost everyone, traffic can be purchased on a mass scale and will actually convert. There is a reason why you are seeing a million banner ads across nearly every ad serving site, they are making money! The media company is selling a massive amount of traffic/views, and the affiliates are cashing in. With the high conversions ans ROI affiliates are seeing from flogs, they can continually pay for a lot of traffic in advance, and in most cases, pay more than other advertisers.
3.) Everyone Loves a Success Story
You may ask why flogs are doing as well as they are. Simply put, everyone loves a success story and wishes they could experience the same. Flogs are mainly for weight loss and biz opp offers. Everyone wants to lose weight and make more money. Once a visitor comes across a convincing blog which tells how a single mom with 4 kids was able to lose 30 lbs in just a few months, just by taking some magic acai pills… who wouldn’t want that same success. Once everyone realized the weight loss flogs worked, the change to biz opp offers took place, and with perfect timing as well. Biz opp flogs are doing better than ever because we are in a tough economic time and everyone is looking to make some new money.
4.) Credit Card Rebills & Trust
With thousands of people signing up for grants, weight loss and biz opp offers daily, it’s just a reminder of how much people want to attain their dream (whatever the landing page is pushing). Even more though, is how willing customers are to use their credit cards online as well. There are two sides to customers now using a credit card online for a flog targeted purchase. First, with all of the news now covering flogs and the rebills, it’s potentially scaring people to use their CC online again (though I think it’s a very small amount). On a positive note, this has also taught us how willingly customers will purchase (or try) your product by submitting their credit card. If you can create a legitimate and wanted business product/model, you know the system works.
5.) Are Affiliate Protected by Networks
The flog business is a sleazy one, and every one knows that. It’s not just about the flogs being fake, but it’s also because of the nasty re-bills and how hard it is to cancel these payment subscriptions from your cards. With the nasty taste these offers leave in the customer’s mouth, it leads to complaints and more attention by the FTC and state attorney generals. But who is to blame? Is it the advertiser’s fault, the affiliate network, or the affiliate? In almost all cases, the testimonials, content and pictures are fake…. which are usually put together by the affiliate. On the other side, you have many networks turning their heads and not looking at how leads are being generated (but they really know). As long as the affiliates are protected by the affiliate network, the flog game will be around for a while. Affiliates use affiliate networks not only as a middle man, but also a security blanket for payments and direct contact.
6.) State Attorney Generals & the FTC
The FTC and attorney generals from multiple states are starting to crack down on flogs and going after the people who are running them. In most cases, the affiliate network will protect their affiliates, until it becomes a legal matter or are subpoenaed. However, in recent news, a few affiliates that were promoting acai related offers through flogs have been subpoenaed. With the FTC and state attorney generals coming into the pictures, and affiliates directly being contacted… it’s getting quite serious.
7.) Obama Grants
Action can be taken fast, when it’s important enough. Remember how a billion “Obama / Stimulus / Government Grants” offers quickly flooded the internet and were shown everywhere (especially on Facebook). These were the most convincing and attention grabbing of all. Obama was just placed into office, and everyone wanted part of their stimulus check. Unfortunately for them, it was just another flog/re-bill offer. The White House quickly got involved and we no longer see the Obama creatives and offers that we did. Will we ever see the same type of enforcement for Oprah and Rachel Ray?
8.) The Nasty Side of ReBill Offers
I’m sure there is are only a handful of affiliates that run flogs, that have actually went through the signup process, and tried to cancel their billing subscription. Luckily for us, we don’t have to. We have enough customer complaint stories to see how customers are billed just after a few days of requesting their free trials, and the complexity (impossible?) of canceling these re-occurring charges. If these re-bills weren’t so hard to cancel, we might not be seeing the extreme action which is starting to take place against these types of offers… but, if that was the case, they would also not be paying $40+ per signup. The advertiser knows they can make money on almost every signup after the $1.95 shipping charge for the free trial payment.
9.) Flog Monetization
Probably one of the most beneficial aspects of the flogging craze, is to see how everyone has been marketing them and how they evolve. The first few flogs were simple pages with a short story and a picture. Now flogs are loaded up with fake testimonials, comments with more fake pictures, fake endorsements from Oprah and Dr. Oz, and now some even with the person talking when you get to the site, telling you their full story. The transition is being made again from personal flogs, to news flogs. The more convincing the flog, the better the conversions. If you continually visit the flogs being advertised all over, you will be amazed at how much they are continually being monetized and improved. Weight loss blogs focus on weight loss stories and pictures, while biz opp flogs focus on check photos, and how the program has worked for other and show their checks in the comments section. (screenshots by DM)
10.) Are Flogs Ethical?
The last lessons learned isn’t so much a lesson, but how you look at the whole flog situation. The majority of people don’t like the idea behind flogs, and think they are misleading the buyer and giving affiliate marketing a bad name. Of course they are misleading, but on the same note, it falls upon the customer to do their research on what they are ordering (t&c). Are flogs any more misleading and unethical than late night infomercials that push get rich quick schemes, weight loss pills and government money programs? The internet is still the wild west, and no matter how legit or unethical a process is, people are still going to find new ways to make money. Ethical or not, the flog and rebill business is the latest web explosion.
Whar are your thoughts on the flogging scene? Will there ever be regulation, how many affiliates will be subpoened, and will any networks release their affiliates information on this matter? Only time will tell… but that time seems to be getting closer daily.
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25 Replies to “Ten Lessons Learned from Flogs & ReBill Offers”
I think flogs take credibility away from real blogs with valid opinions. Promoting fake opinions and content is not the way to go as an affiliate. While regulations may not be strict now, you can bet the FTC will be cracking down on flog promotions.
I am thrilled to see you write this article. First off, everything one does should be legal. For it to be ethical, the simple test for these should be, did the buyer know what he was signing up for?
In my discussions working with facebook a common theme has been that there are so many real, quality products in this world, that are not yet being sold well online, there really is no reason for people to sell fake crap.
I love Shoemoney's strategy for getting small business's to be their affiliate advertiser. There is so much growth available there it is ridiculous, and I have picked up clients there without even trying.
Good for you for using your blog to shine a little light!
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Thanks for writing this article Zac. We were the first network to address this issue and implement our own blog/review site guidelines, because we wanted to make sure everyone was protected – the publishers, the advertisers and the consumers. It's enlightened self interest – by protecting the consumers we protect our industry.
With that said, If anyone would like more information on how to ensure if your blog/review site is 100% Compliant, or if you would like us to go over your site with you (regardless of whether you are a Clickbooth affiliate or not) send me an email at Eric@clickbooth.com and I will have one of our Affiliate Strategists contact you ASAP.
Well, flogs are really deceiving. It's okay if their products or services are really amazing and does wonders. But, sometimes, readers/customers are just not getting what they've actually paid because of false advertisements and testimonials.
But, I don't think we can monitor and control these flogs flooding the net. Consumers should just watch their back of some too good to be true products and services offered on the internet.
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I don't even know what a flog is until I have read this article.
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Now watch as half your readers attempt to make flogs.
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As you say some of these are very sophisticated. A little PHP coding and whammy your reading the gazette, fake newspaper etc.
The thing is in one of the spaces where there was concern about mis-selling the ringtone space it got to the point where the disclaimers say something to the effect of :
Listen dipshit I know you want to look cool with all your Britney friends with your Womanizer ringtone but it's gonna cost you like $9.99 EVERY month, do you understand? So it feels like a scam, but looking cool in front of friends is worth $10.
I started smoking Marlboro because of the Marlboro man (silly me) and even if the acai thing is not scientific but is placebo, if it helps SOME people to lose a few pounds that has to be better than them gorging themselves to death on cheesesburgers.
Advertising has always been about creating an illusion, I can cite hundreds of real life things that are very hard to get out of (domain transfer, cell phone number porting, cable TV), but there is always a way.
I guess the issue is the affiliate is responsible for the sales, not for the service, the advertiser has to take responsibility and if we get too many complaints from the public about the lack of advertiser service we will drop the program, because as the network we are the ones who tag everything up and the ones that are easy to find. We're not the judge or the jury on whether what people choose to spend their money is right or not.
Good points thought Zac.
I think these are definitely unethical – anything that uses a lie to make money is unethical. If the people that run these flogs just tried to do things the right way they probably would realize they could actually be successful.
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I also don't know about flog. this the first time when I read about this.
Its a very nice article its different from others its very informative I learn alot from this. There are many things which we can learn from these. thanks for sharing such nice ideas.
That totally true. Especially on point no#8. That's why I stop to promote this kind of free trial rebill offers.
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I just spent all night making a flog newspaper. What news media platform isn't slighted or pushing their angles.
The problem is that flogs are so easy to make. Pretty much anyone can do it so it makes them more and more prevalent, not to mention annoying.
As a publisher who works heavily in the work at home niche, I'm seeing the direct effect of these flogs. Now, even the guy you can trust is getting the evil eye from visitors. Daily I get emails asking for help on how to stop these rebills… people who can;t even afford their next meal, but they took the chance to try and better their lives. Fake promises!
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thanks for the post it was awesome 🙂
This is the first I've ever heard of flogs, but I definitely think they seem shady and hopefully they will be eliminated by the FTC
Flogs make up a very substantial percentage of the blogs on the internet today, which is really sad.. more spam, more garbage and less real people with real things to say. Fortunately it helps those of us who are real in the long run as these flogs will feel the ftc hammer and eventually fizzle out..
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I was not aware of anything like flogs. After reading few articles about them their image is not so good. Are Flogs Ethical? Thanks for your fantastic post.
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I was kind of aware of flogs but didn't know exactly what they are. They are unethical but make money!!
I think people see this all the time, and sometimes we make mistakes when buying products that sound too good to be true. I personally, would never flog because I don't want my sites to be branded with a bad name. However, for people who have a single sales pitch landing page and use a fake name, they can get away with this. It's wrong, unethical, and shows how lazy these people are. They'd rather cheat and lie to make a quick buck than work hard and keep earning honest money, constantly.
Oh man, I learned a HUGE HUGE lesson when I used my credit card on doing offers from GPT sites. After that, I started using VCCs which pretty much saved my life as I didn't even need to call in to cancel offers at times.
Now people are more educated and I think this kind of marketing will end soon. Every genuine blogger should stand against this and hats off to you for this kind of post.
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There will always be some venues and marketing that skates on the other side of good ethics because people are easily influenced by advertising, especially that which is sensational and sounds too good to be true, because most believe what they want to believe
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Well no doubt flogs are in a bit of a grey area, and are no doubt misleading, but they are profitable. Knowing where to draw the line in CPA (particularly free trial offers) is a tricky one. Make $3,000 a day promoting flogs? Or $30 a day writing a legit review of the product? I personally try not to think about it, and look at it in a positive way. Cheers
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