Buying Cameras &
• A tale of two
• An argument
• Some well-known
• Dealer strategies:
a few examples
• All those
• The fine print
• Relevant reading
Chapter I: The Agency
It is 1981 in deepest Brooklyn, and two brothers
start a small marketing company. The company specializes in hand-distributing
printed advertising to homes around New York. They eventually name it DCD Marketing, derived
from Dependable Circular Distributors, as it was first known.
In time DCD grows into a full-service advertising agency,
offering its clients everything from printing to ad campaigns, representing
New York-area businesses and national chains with local branches. When their
new website debuts in 2001, they have titled the company DCD Interactive Marketing
For a period starting in 2000, DCD produces a series of printed
booklets of ads and coupons for distribution around the city, and
"Shopping Cart of America". But in early 2002 they shift their focus.
They start a "new E-commerce Awareness program," distributing printed
materials door-to-door to raise local awareness of their clients' internet
presence. On their website, they explain their strategy to those clients:
With the recent explosion in consumer use of the Internet and millions of consumers going online,
the potential for profit is staggering...
...the Internet community represents a desirable market for the goods
and services of many firms, making it even more important that marketers understand
this medium... it
is time to separate you from the
rest of the pack. DCD Interactive Marketing is just the company to get your
Internet company the grassroots exposure it needs to compete in this ever-growing
A year later, in the Spring of 2003, they announce the
logical next step: "ShopCartUSA.com Launches, Offering DCD Clients Unprecedented
Access to Online Market."
Chapter II: The Search-Site
ShopCartUSA has actually been online since the spring of 2001,
debuting just after DCD's own website. For its first two years it has existed
openly as "the online presence for the Shopping Cart of America... a subsidiary
of DCD Interactive Marketing." It iis featured on DCD's website, just
as DCD's site is linked from ShopCartUSA. This changes
in the summer
of 2003, about two months after the "launch" announcement,
when mention of a connection between the two disappears from both sites.
While a search-site has information and reviews about many
specific products, its more important function is to list dealers and their
prices for those products. In the style of many search-sites, dealers displayed
highest on ShopCartUSA's list for a
label, are the ones that pay for that promotion. The site's Merchant Program
page is quite open about it:
You select how much you want to pay per click...
Your products will appear in the search results according to how much you are paying per click.
Products will be listed from highest paying merchant to lowest paying merchant.
Less apparent is the role of the site's
ratings system in influencing shoppers. Large, established
national stores are listed together with new, web-only dealers (some mentioned
on our other pages). As of November 2005,
CompUSA, B&H Photo, Ritz Camera and Amazon are rated based on a combined
total of 78 reviews, while Broadway Photo has 298 reviews (4 stars), Digital
Liquidators has 302 (4 stars), USA PhotoNation has 798 (5 stars), and Express
Cameras has 149 (5 stars).
With no ad agency relationship visible, the average shopper
might not guess that a paid marketing service is being performed here.
As the search-site industry grows, consumers seek more specialized
sites which cater to their specific interests. DCD sees an opportunity in
the hot field of digital photography and video, so in January, 2004, DisgitalSaver.com
enters the field.
Chapter III: The Stealth Site
It's not clear (at least to us) whether DCD starts DigitalSaver,
acquires it, or just assumes its management. Everything about the site, including
an earlier, less successful version, is shrouded in anonymity. Whatever the
case, DCD chooses to keep the site's affiliate terms, merchant policies, and
to the ad agency private. It uses a nearby mail drop with a non-Brooklyn zip
code as its address.
Uniquely among the search-sites we've looked at, this one
discourages affiliate inquiries:
...we currently accept new merchants exclusively by invitation from our staff...
Please be aware that due to high volume of requests we only respond to select
It's easy to deduce who the paying affiliates are, of course;
just look at the dealers listed most prominently, or labeled "Featured
for the gadget of your choice. Something else is missing, however -- dealer
reviews. There is no clue how those 4- and 5-star ratings are determined, or
who has awarded them. Perhaps DCD's experienced advertising professionals have
realized that after years of search-site conditioning, most online shoppers
assume that those gold
stars must represent some real
Free enterprise, bolstered by
advertising, has been an indispensable factor in our country's greatness. And
advertising techniques always evolve to adapt to new technologies.
the companies mentioned here are not the major players in their industry,
they are instructive
of the newest trend in marketing, an effective strategy
to draw buyers to particular Internet storefronts. We believe students
of the advertising industry should appreciate the psychology and ingenuity
that underlies these businesses. And so should shoppers.
Wait! There's more to
The characters in our Tale...
DCD Marketing, DCD Interactive Marketing
2744 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn NY 11207
718-647-3000, fax 718-647-3453
managers: Mitchell Vilinsky, email@example.com; Ruvane Vilinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org
(according to AAPS trade association website, aapsinc.org)
registrant: DCD, 1/22/99; admin contact: Mitchell Vilinsky
contact email: email@example.com [name, from earlier website page: Louis Dershowitz]
DCD Marketing LLC -- N.Y. registration 2/13/03; same address
DCD Interactive Marketing
LLC -- N.Y. registration 4/30/99; c/o Edward Vilinsky, separate address
(Also earlier corporate registrations,
no longer active)
The Search-Site: ShopCart USA
2744 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn NY 11207
(no telephones on website)
DNS registrant: "ShopCartUSA LLC", 9/10/02
contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 212-696-6996
shopcartusa.biz, .org, .info -- phone: 718-647-3000 (DCD's number)
website's Clients section lists DCD's phones: 718-647-3000,
"ShopCartUSA LLC" and "ShopCartUSA.com,
on DNS and website,
are not listed in N.Y. corporate registry
The Stealth Site: DigitalSaver
105-04 Jamaica Ave., Suite 35, Richmond NY 11418 [a mail drop near Brooklyn]
(no telephones on website)
DNS registrant: anonymous, 9/11/99
"DigitalSaver.com LLC", mentioned
website, is not listed in N.Y. corporate registry
Conclusive evidence of the DigitalSaver-ShopCartUSA
connection exists in at least three forms.
(The desperately curious may contact us.)
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