e-advertising put my heart through a meat grinder.

She had me at her e-mail subject line. It read: “I want to buy an ad on”

Melinda went on to praise the site’s navigability and one of my stories, adding that her company, Ground Up Advertising, would be willing to pay money to place ads on specific articles.

After finishing my Happy Dance and envisioning our hosting bills paid off a year in advance, I calmly consulted with the other editors and agreed to proceed.

Of course, it did seem a little strange that Melinda had, unsolicited, offered money for our content. So I did a little rudimentary background checking, asking her for a link to another site that carried a Ground Up ad (she gladly complied) and checking out her company’s Web site. Huh, I thought. For a professional Web advertising company, their page design skills really aren’t all that great.

At this point, my personal crap-o-meter should have been going WHEEP WHEEP WHEEP! But it’s amazing how greed and flattery can affect one’s judgment.

Only after reaching an agreement with Melinda did I do a more thorough Internet search, turning up this excellent blog post revealing that “Melinda” is actually a stock photo, along with the other Ground Up employees. (Scroll halfway down this page belonging to a Croatian Internet service provider, for example.) Too proud to admit I’d been snookered, I decided to wait to see if the check bounced.

“Melinda” never gave me the chance. When I e-mailed her again to point out that a few of her ads pointed to sites that didn’t exist, and that she had bizarrely asked to put a “Transformers”-related ad on our review of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (instead of either of our two articles about Transformers), she said we should see other people.

“I regret to say that my employer decided to change how things are working around here and I’m not going to need the ads anymore,” she wrote. “[...] I apologize a million times over. You’ve been wonderful working with me on this and I truly feel awful. I hope you understand.”

Yes, “Melinda” — or “Jack” or whatever — I understand. No hard feelings; I wanted this fantasy as much as you did.

But next time around, whadyasay we drop the pretenses and just be ourselves?

Article © 2008 by Michael Duck