DIANA, CLAIRVOYANT NUMEROLOGIST: A Bloviative Case Study of Contemporary Internet Advertising
THE NUMBERS REVEAL
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So read the internet advertisement that caught my eye the other day.
As it would seem, the latest fad in "CLICK ME I HAVE THE TRADE SECRETS OF X AND I'M WILLING TO GIVE THEM TO YOU" advertising has left the realm of staggering weight loss, natural penis augmentations, or sexy singles in your area, to thinly-veiled and scantily justified fortune-telling. Wait, did I say scantily? Oh, silly me. I meant scientifically justified, because everyone knows that numerology is the most respected field in all the sciences, be they hard, soft, or otherwise.
The home page of www.diana-numerology.com (oh gods) is as promising as you would expect. A large banner featuring ominous floating numbers and a large shot of Diana's eerily unwrinkled face. Her mouth is smiling, but her eyes aren't. She's wearing a teal turtleneck, and her hands are folded into a chin stand in such as way as to yell, "That's Ms. and not Mrs., but I can still be wise in a motherly way." She doesn't look like a gypsy, but the way her arms sit in front of her chest implies she has a couple of tricks up her worldly sleeves. The name beneath her bust renders the 'n' in Diana with a quaint little tail, not to mention the obnoxious white-serif-with-glow found on any site that's ever unironically pretended the supernatural was real. She bills herself as a CLAIRVOYANT-NUMEROLOGIST, a profession that somehow has not yet been featured in any literature of any kind, ever.
The big words in the middle read 'NUMEROLOGY' and 'CLAIRVOYANCE', with little # signs in the O's, as though that somehow imbues the whole operation with the legitimacy of mathematical rigour. (SPOILER ALERT: It doesn't.) The reader is then informed they are being offered their astral numerological prediction for free!
The sign-up form left for you to fill in features first name and email fields, as well as gender and date-of-birth selectors, and a large purple button for you to CONFIRM YOUR PREDICTION IS FREE. There is also a checkbox for confirming you understand the ToU and confidentiality policy, as well as a curious option, in an inordinately small typeface, asking the victim if they "would also like to benefit from advice from [Diana's] partners", which appears to be a thinly veiled invitation for spam. There is a bit of fine print above the form that reads 'I certify that the information entered above is correct and wish to receive my "Free Numerology Reading" by Diana as soon as possible.' even though the information is actually entered below it. Some equally fine print at the bottom of the form, informing you that the first personalized reading is "absolutely free of charge", while "[s]ubsequent readings may incur a fee".
And what website would be complete without ill-advised sidebars! A message on the left informs you that "Numbers hold secret information about your life. Request your Grand Numerology Study now to shed important light on your future." This is supported by the right side, wherein a Facebook plugin informs you that 'Diana Numerology' has upwards of 1400 likes. Quite frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if there was an actual Facebook account for this character whose last name was "Numerology". Of note is the fact that the profile picture is the same face that's been staring at you from the same cold angle since you arrived at this violet-white internet barnacle.
But that isn't all that the site has to offer! Let's begin with the Biography page. The first thing to note is that the name of the page here is in French: 'biographie.php'. The actual thing reeks of Mary Sue-ness and unrealistic qualifications:
Diana was born into high English aristocracy and frequented the elite strata of high society from an early age. She was accepted into this world because of her very precocious talent and gift of clairvoyance. This gift wasn't surprising as her family lineage is part of a secret order that possesses and passes down the secrets and mysteries of the divinatory sciences through their lineage. Thus at a very young age Diana was able to travel and see the world. Diana never went to school as it is traditionally understood, though she benefited from the best tutors and professors for her "normal" education as well as for her initiation into the sacred arts of tarot, runes, astrology and numerology. [emphasis added]
Note how the use of the bolded phrases makes the whole thing sound like absolute hogwash. The next four paragraphs include much of the same, with no shortage of selflessness, as she begins to refuse to numerologize for wealthy kings, presidents, and big industry magnates, opting instead to help the less fortunate; nor of Diana being very cagey about her past, because what really is there to tell, only the past record of incredibly high profile clients, and how it was so difficult to step down and help John Q. Public, but she had to do what was right and that is to share her gift of numerology with the masses; nor of praise for Diana's work, in the form of telling us about how long and glowing the list of testimonials is. To top it off, the so-called biography goes on to say that, in the inner circles of divination, Diana is said to have magical powers that can bestow great good on whoever she pleases. How the reporting party was able to gather and publish all this information, or whether or not there is any truth to any of it, remains eerily absent from the text, of course.
(A minor digression: At the bottom of each page there is a large advertisment. The one I managed to get on this particular page load is a phone tarot service, whose rates are as follows: 10 minutes for 1.5 USD, followed by 3.5 USD per minute thereafter. That's right, $3.50 per minute. And this is in pretty fine print, too. One can only imagine the sort of deals you might accrue from Diana's other affiliates.)
Speaking of testimonials, let's move on to the Testimonials page ('temoignages.php', still French). There are plenty mixed into the sidebars of the page, so let's see what sort of lengthy reviews we have for Diana's services. 'Anna & Patrick', accompanied by a picture of an elderly couple at a Macintosh, tell us, "Diana was able to give me clear answers to my questions thanks to the power of numbers." 'Amber', a raven-haired 20-something lying in a patch of grass thoughtfully, informs us that "Amber:'When you don't know which way to go, look at the stars; Diana can interpret the astral influences for you.'" And the best part about these two quotes? They constitute two-thirds of the testimonials. There is also one from disembodied head Ashley expressing her content at the fact that the cards helped her rebuild her life.
Unfortunately, this is all the content that Diana has to offer us in the navigation bar, unless we were to sign up for a chance to view her mystical divination prowess in action. My first attempt was to sign up as the year 1984—birthdate January 1, 1984—but it would appear my first name ('TheYear1984') was entered incorrectly! Who knew I had such a poor grasp of my own name, simply because there were numbers in it. I later went with 'Year', 'The' being my title, of course. This succeeds, and the following page informs me I need to confirm my email, and that, if I don't see the mail in my inbox, it may be because my computer has mistakenly filed it into "[my] «spam/junk» folder". Oh, silly computer. Quelle perspicacité.
The rest is standard fare for sites like this. Some fun facts: Article 3 contains the parenthetical "(or its equivalent in USD/CHF/AUD/CAD/GBP/JPY/HUF/CZK/DKK/HKD/SEK/NOK/INR/ZAR depending on your country of residence)" six times. Membership is 39,90 EUR/mo, which is about 51 USD/mo, which is on the order of 600 USD per year. Article 5, 'Guarantees', guarantees the reader that diana-numerology.com assumes no liability for anything and anything that happens to the User through use of their Content is the User's fault. Article 11 hints at the existence of an eBook available to members. Article 12 informs us that all the site content is protected under intellectual property rights.* Article 13 is titled 'Installation of a Cookie'.
After near an hour of waiting for that confirmation email, Mailinator doesn't show a response from Diana-Numerology, so it's probably for the best that we don't continue further. (Mailinator has draconian yet intelligent mail rejection criteria, so you can rest assured it knows best.) So let's just investigate what would've happened to us had we signed up, using the Confidentiality policy page. It's long winded, so I've outlined some of the highlights.
- Your credit card information is stored.
- Your browsing of the site may be tracked. Whether or not this entails some sort of browser toolbar that ends up collecting all your history, or just your choices made while on the site, it doesn't say.
- Every possible datum of information that can be gleaned from your browser's connection (IP, OS, browser, last page visited, et al.) is implied to be stored.
- This information will be used to tailor their promotions to you.
- This information will be handed out to affiliates, and, if you were to agree to such, other third parties.
From experience, I think this neatly sums up just about any internet advertisement (that isn't for a webcomic). Draw what conclusions you will.
- Andrew Aguecheek adds: Shockingly the images from the testimonials are all from image banks. Presumably this is because Diana advised them to become professional corporate models? Also, this Forehead Brow Lift model seems hauntingly familiar.
EPILOGUE. Confirming my predictions, there are now plenty of results ranking highly in Google searches about Diana Numerology which seem to point at the whole thing being an enormous scam. There is also a curious sister site, www.julia-clairvoyance.com, which makes the exact same offers, and has the exact same biography and site-layout, and is prone to the same gullible twats actually signing up. See (1), (2). In the rare case that one of you considering these services finds this writeup through Google and manages to get to the end without getting a case of itchy wallet, here's a sound piece of advice: GROW UP. Magic isn't real. If you're really keen on getting fucked in the ass, cut out the middleman and buy yourself a high-end buttplug.
Yes, this was fairly informal, as far as case studies go. It's a pretty sardonic dissection of the site, and I didn't even pay all that much lip service to the irrationality of all forms of fortune-telling (sorry, e2gypsies, I just really have it in for you guys), but this really is some good insight into the wiles of the kinds of people that would (and do!) hock this sort of crap. I've also tried to expose the flatness of the website's facade, but that would really be preaching to the choir, as the people smart enough to read into what I have to say would probably also have caught it on the website, or better yet, would have the sense not to click on the ad altogether.
But, at the very least, this is here to provide qualitative evidence of the scamminess of scams. Just as a scientific trial under controlled circumstances can validate that the deceased really are incapable of storytelling, this monolith stands as yet another testament to the timeless caveat emptor.
* The quoted portions of this writeup satisfy the conditions of Fair Use on E2. Deal with it.