There is no sex in this post — it’s a post about the business of blogging. Feel free to skip it.

Short version: this is a warning to my fellow adult bloggers about a very dubious pitch you may have received recently. is sending out spammy emails to adult bloggers in which the company feigns an interest in buying ads, only to abandon that pretense once you answer the email. Without further ado, having confirmed your interest in selling ads, they begin giving the hard sell for ad brokerage services — not buying any ads at all, but rather, offering your ad space to their network of potential advertisers. Classic bait-and-switch: first the false offer (the bait) to get your attention, then the switch to the real offer. Illegal in some jurisdictions, scummy everywhere.

Long version follows.

On Monday, I received a curious email:

Subject: I want to Buy Ad Space on


I would like to buy advertising space on your website Do you have anything available? Please let me know.

Best Regards,

Tai Kinney
Account Manager

Emails like this are not uncommon. What made this one curious is that is an advertising broker; they act as a middleman between web publishers and web advertisers, collecting a commission on all the advertising transactions they touch, and helping to facilitate those transactions. I would expect them to be making a pitch to broker any available ad space ErosBlog might have, but buying advertising space here? It didn’t make sense. The “spam or con job” hairs on the back of my neck went up.

No matter; they got one of my standard responses, the low-effort one I save for leads I don’t think will amount to anything:

Hi, Tai. Ad space on Erosblog is available through the Blogads “advertise on ErosBlog” links in the ErosBlog sidebars. Prices and availability are visible when you follow those links.

Thanks for your interest!

I will confess to sending the above in a spirit of modest mischief. Even if had a genuine interest in buying advertising space on ErosBlog, the idea that they might wish to do so via the services of a competing ad brokerage service (BlogAds) is, perhaps, implausible.

When I sent the above email, my “send-and-receive” email operation brought an identically worded email addressed to another one of my sites, with the only word of difference being the domain name. Asking about buying ad space via bulk email? Really? The unlikely inquiry now began to seem downright implausible.

And sure enough, my next communique from was strangely silent about the ad space they wanted to buy just three hours and twenty-seven minutes previously:

Thank you for your quick response. I just want to mention that we are the largest adult advertising network and we have great relationships with big advertisers like,,, and many others. We offer the highest industry publisher payouts and I would like the opportunity to help you better monetize your ad space. I’m very interested in working with you and your website, please contact me so that we can see if we are a good fit.


Tai Kinney
Account Manager

That’s a form letter, an email macro, and it contains the standard ad brokerage sales pitch: “to help you better monetize your ad space.” Which, it may surprise you to learn, I am not against. Monetization buys me beer and bacon and dinners out with The Nymph. But there’s the little matter of the bait and switch, which is so offensively blatant and dishonest that it has — not to put too fine a point on things — righteously pissed me off. What, am I supposed to be too stupid to notice that the bait has been yanked away?

More serious than me being pissed off is the issue of trust. Ad brokers, like affiliate programs, are notorious for collecting services from webmasters (in this case, ad inventory, page views for web ads) and then being slow to pay, or finding some lame excuse (“bad traffic” is the vague classic) not to pay at all, or simply getting behind on payments and then going out of business without paying anybody. It happens all the time.

Which means, of course, that if you do business on the web, business that involves collecting, holding, and transmitting money on behalf of webmasters, you need to be (or at least to look) as trustworthy as a bank. Your fundamental business challenge is to convince webmasters to trust you with their money. And that’s not easy. Webmasters who have been been repeatedly burned are a hostile and suspicious lot, when it comes to trying the next great new program. We’ve heard all the monetization promises before, and been burned by too many of them.

One way in which you do NOT gain a reputation for being trustworthy is to lie to your potential business associates in your very first freaking email to them. As J.P. Morgan once famously said, “A man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom.” Thus, my interest in pursuing Etology’s offer to broker my ad inventory, an interest that was never very high, is now … how shall I put this delicately? … very low.

Nonetheless, I was fascinated by the blatant nature of the initial deception, and amused by the slight dissonance resulting from the macro/form-letter nature of their brokerage pitch. In response to my response, they sent me a standard brokerage marketing pitch with out-of-place “please contact me” phrasing. Let’s ask about that, aggressively:

Er, I’m confused. I just DID contact you in response to a request from you to buy ad space. Why are you asking me to contact you a second time? Was your first email just a bait-and-switch spam to advertise your ad brokerage service? If so, that’s an exceptionally dubious business practice that’s not encouraging me to explore doing business with you.

In all honesty, I never expected to hear from them again. I was forgetting that it never pays to underestimate the tenacity, or overestimate the chutzpah, of a commissioned salesperson:

I apologize for the confusion. I just wanted to see if there was any interest in me helping you monetize your ad space on your website. Like I said before we are the largest adult advertising network and we have the highest industry publisher payouts. My intention is to help pair up our advertisers with publishers that have great sites like yours. Please let me know if there is any interest.

Thank you for your time,

Tai Kinney
Account Manager

Well, there we have it — a bare apology (for my confusion, natch, not for anything Tai actually did) and the sales pitch a second time. At least it’s now fairly clear that Tai never had any interest in buying ad space; the deceptive intent in the first email is now confirmed.

Sometimes the devil gets in me, and I write challenging emails to people. This was one of those times:

I’m sorry, Tailynn, but I’m still not sure I understand what’s going on here. The first email from you had the following subject line: “I want to Buy Ad Space on” The first sentence of that email was “I would like to buy advertising space on your website”

You are now saying “I just wanted to see if there was any interest in me helping you monetize your ad space.” That’s really quite different, and not, I think, a matter of “confusion” if your only interest is in brokering sales of ad space on behalf of third-party advertisers. That would not be confusion on my part, but rather, deception on yours.

So, which is it? Was your initial inquiry in respect to buying ad space, or brokering it?

I note with interest that I am now receiving queries identical to your first at some of my other blog properties. Right now it looks very much to me like you are engaging in deceptive spam practices, unless there’s some aspect to our communications which I am misunderstanding. I hope you can clear this up for me?

At this point, Tai’s best plan would have been to fess up to the deception, apologize for it, wish me a nice day, and move on, hoping I would forget all about it and never mention it to anyone.

What I got was the first two things in eight words, a miraculous verbal economy. This full and fair but extremely sparse apology was followed by — you guessed it! — more sales pitch. First sentence: I’m sorry I lied to you. Next seven sentences: now let me tell you how great it’s going to be doing business with you!

I apologize for being misleading in my inquiries. Let me start over. My company is an adult advertising network that helps pair up advertisers with publishers like yourself that have great sites. We’ve developed extensive relationships with big advertisers like youporn,, and redtube to name a few. We also have a large selection of network ads. My offering to you is to place advertising on your site to help monetize your ad space, thus helping you make money from your site. The types of ads available to you are GTBs, text, banner, commercial breaks, and in-video XML. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best Regards,

Tai Kinney
Account Manager

Astonishing. Shorter Tai: “I lied, I’m sorry, but I don’t see why we can’t still do business.”

I decided to decline the invitation to let Tai start over. Churlish of me, I suppose. Instead, I offered Tai the short lecture on business ethics, along with modest foreshadowing as to why it’s not smart to lie to bloggers on behalf of your internet company:

Tailynn, thank you for being — on your fourth try — straightforward with me. I’ll try to be as straightforward with you.

As it happens, I am interested in finding another ad broker. I had previously looked at Etology, but your website contains no information suggesting that it is an adult-advertising friendly network, so I had dismissed it as a possibility.

However, your initial contact with me was, as you have now admitted, a deliberate lie. You are spamming bloggers with a false and misleading inquiry in an attempt to get attention, and then you are baiting and switching, disclaiming any interest in buying ad space and instead offering your brokerage services.

Not only is that unconscionable as a spamming technique, it is laughably stupid. It establishes you and your company as untrustworthy, which is a very poor basis for attracting new publishers to your network. A publisher has to trust an ad broker with collection and remission of funds. How on earth could I trust your company with my money, when your initial business contact with me consisted of a blatant and deliberate lie?

I am planning to complain publicly about your mendacious business practices to provide warning to the blogging community, but before I do so, I’d like to give someone in a position of higher authority in your organization an opportunity to comment on whether this sort of mendacious business practice is consistent with your corporate policies. Do you have any suggestions as to whom I should forward my complaint and request for corporate comment? Or shall I simply start with your abuse and support emails and work from there?

That one was sent after close of business Monday. A couple of hours into Tuesday’s business day, there was no response. As I was indeed planning to make this blog post, it seemed only fair to Etology to give them at least one shot to spin this their way. So I sent the following email to support@, abuse@, Tai, and to Brock Purpura, Etology CEO, whose email I deduced from press releases and from the standard email conventions:

Subject: Complaint And Request For Corporate Comment

Hello. I have a complaint about Etology’s email marketing practices. Specifically, one of your Account Managers is spamming adult bloggers with a deceptive come-on, claiming that Etology wants to “buy” ad space and then, once this lie gets a blogger response, switching over to the standard “we’d like to help you monetize your ad space” broker sales pitch. As you are in the brokerage business, there can be no doubt that your sales managers know the difference between “buy” and “help monetize”, so the initial email appears to be an obvious and deliberate lie.

I consider lying to prospective customers to be an abusive and deceptive marketing practice that reflects extremely badly on I will, for whatever little it may be worth, be making my disgust at this marketing practice public, on my blog, tomorrow morning.

However, I am conscious that in a competitive sales environment, sales personnel sometimes do things that are not in accord with company policy. Accordingly, I have decided to hold off on making my complaint public until tomorrow morning, and to send this email in the interim. Please forward this email to whomever in your company might wish to comment on whether lying to generate sales leads comports with Etology’s accepted business ethics and policies.

The “abuse” email address bounced, no such address. None of the others bounced. Thirty six minutes later, I had my answer. There is a {snip} in the middle; I have elided (for brevity) four more paragraphs of sales pitch about Etology’s ad brokerage services:

I know that you are upset and I apologize for the choice of words that were used in the emails below. Tailynn is fairly new and may have overstepped with her first few emails.

I would like to provide an explanation of what Etology does. We are an online ad network that pairs up advertisers and publishers. Simple as that. We broker the ads and pay the publishers 75% of all the earnings. We pay our internally managed publishers twice a month, as opposed to net 30, like other ad networks.


I apologize again, but hope I have cleared up any misunderstandings about our service and practices. I will be here to answer any questions or address concerns that you have about our service and practices. Feel free to contact me through instant message if that is easier for you. Thank you.

Jeff Sue
Account Manager

This is standard PR smoothing, consisting of an acknowledging my aggrieved status followed by a non-apology apology. The “choice of words” is apologized for, but the underlying deception? Nope. This was a matter of unfortunate phrasing, nothing more, now let me tell you how we are going to get rich together!

Those of you in the adult industry will also recognize, and be laughing at, that phrase “Tailynn is fairly new.” Whenever an adult industry company is caught spamming, shaving, stealing web page designs, or doing anything else unsavory, the standard PR response is that “it was a new employee, and we didn’t know about the behavior.” It’s such a predictable response that it’s become something of an inside joke.

To be fair, in this case I wouldn’t be surprised if the bog-standard excuse also turned out to be actually true. The bait-and-switch deception is such a phenomenally bad idea from a business standpoint that it very well might be the act of a new employee desperate and eager to make a tough sales quota. But in that case, shouldn’t I be hearing an unequivocal disavowal of the practice, and an apology for something more substantial than “choice of words”? No, Jeff said “Tailynn … may have overstepped with her first few emails.” Or maybe not; for Jeff, it’s a wobbler. Maybe we really do approve of lying to sales leads? Jeff doesn’t know; Jeff can’t say.

Of course you know I had to write back to him:

Jeff, I appreciate your email, and I’ll be including the pertinent paragraphs in the blog post I make about this matter. Unfortunately, I find your reaction to this problem to show a disturbing lack of concern.

This is not a “choice of words” issue. One of your people is *lying* to prospective business contacts. Your response fails to indicate whether Etology condones that behavior; when you say she “may have overstepped” you leave open that she may *not* have. I’m looking for an unequivocal response from as to whether, as a matter of corporate policy, she did.

Let me be explicit. Like everyone who does business on the internet, I prioritize my email responses. Spammish emails offering me business services like your ad brokerage receive attention at a much lower priority than requests to purchase advertising. By sending a fraudulent request to buy advertising, your person is deliberately exploiting this difference in priorities — lying to get to the head of the line. Obviously, when the lie is discovered, it creates anger and resentment, along with a fundamental lack of trust that — one would think — is a problem for a company that’s expected to collect and remit funds to its publisher customers.

I used to work in an office where salesmen would lie to our receptionist, claiming to be clients, in order to get their sales calls forwarded to my desk. Obviously, they and their companies went on my permanent blacklist for this behavior. My current complaint — and my reaction to it — is analogous. But, now that we live in the era of blogs and Google, I can more easily “share my blacklist” (and the reasons for it) with the world, in the interest of making this sort of behavior off limits for reputable companies.

Accordingly, I think it would be in Etology’s best interest to disavow this marketing practice in unequivocal words.

Thanks for your time.

Writing that email forced me to figure out why I care as much about this as I do. We live in an attention economy these days, and prioritizing our attention is vital to business success. I (well, me and my filters) sort four or five thousand emails a day, most of them spam and most of the rest, bacn. Sorting out the tiny but significant fraction of business email from people who actually want to send me money? That’s a vital business function that takes a lot of time and effort. Lying to me in an effort to subvert my vital business functions? Way to piss me off.

Lying for attention is theft of attention, and it’s not just a minor offense. Time is money, and stealing one is as bad as stealing the other. If the corporate culture at is honestly supportive of this type of deception, they are not a company I’d enjoy having to trust for a monthly check.

Jeff’s response, this morning:

I am very concerned about all customers of Etology/AVN. Without our customers being happy and satisfied, we would not exist as the largest adult ad network.

As I mentioned Tailynn is fairly new here. It was not that she was lying, it’s just that she took the wrong approach and didn’t explain herself properly (as we do offer to buy adspace out right for a flat rate). I’m sure you can understand how issues happen when you are new on a job. Regardless, the lack of information resulted in your time used on deciphering, which ultimately led to mistrust. Again, I apologize for that.

We have addressed the issue with Tailynn and management and offer our customer support to your questions and concerns.

Jeff Sue
Account Manager

So there you have it, another non-apology apology, apologizing for my reaction and my “mistrust” rather than for the actual wrong done. No, wait, I forgot, Jeff says “I would like to buy advertising space” was not a lie, even though the person writing it had no intention of buying advertising space, because the company more broadly does sometimes (but not this time) “offer to buy adspace.” Sorry, Jeff, but Tailynn herself told me “I just wanted to see if there was any interest in me helping you monetize your ad space.” Tailynn herself said “I apologize for being misleading in my inquiries.” If there was ever any intention to “buy” ad space on Erosblog, I gave Tailynn three chances to say so. She never did. If cannot recognize the deliberately deceptive bait-and-switch, and acknowledge that it was problematic, is not a safe company to do business with.

If any other webmasters have received dishonest solicitations from, I’d be interested in hearing about it in the comments. And especially, if there’s any adult blogger from whom has actually bought advertising space outright (as opposed to brokering it through their network) I’d like to hear about it.