Alister Cameron // Blogologist

Changing the world. One blog(ger) at a time.

Salesletter techniques that suck: JavaScript date/timer hacks

I am not a fan of the long-form salesletter, although my company works with clients who love it, and for good reason: it is proven to work… it makes things sell.

And there are the standard array of tricks and techniques that people use on these salesletters… you know the kind: highlighting everywhere, endless bullet lists, ridiculously huge and over-promising headlines, 1001 gushing testimonials, bla bla bla.

One of my pet peeves is the JavaScript datestamp (or the server-side one… whatever), that ensures that at whatever time you arrive at the salesletter/webpage, you’re made to believe that it was penned just hours ago.

Now, aside from the dubious ethics of this approach (i.e. a webpage that has stayed largely identically the same for, say, a year but was apparently written this morning), there is the risk that your programming is in error:

Gobala Krishnan - back from the future

This delightful effort is from Gobala Krishnan (who may well have a wonderful little product he’s selling there), someone who’s Adsense skills are eclipsed only by his ability to travel back through time.

So to Gobala and every other long-form salesletter lover out there: I (personally) promise, if convinced to purchase your product on its merits, that I will not think less of you for being truthful about when you actually wrote your salesletter, nor will I think more of you because you inserted faulty (or not) timestamping JavaScript to try to deceive me into attributing greater “freshness” to your salesletter writing efforts than was in fact warranted (or truthful).

Sorry to pick on Gobala, and if I could be bothered I could find plenty of other examples to link to. For Gobala’s sake, commenters are welcome to add more examples below, so he doesn’t feel alone 🙂

Anyway, please don’t miss my point… this is 2007. Bodgy salesletter trickery like that is LAME! It makes you look like an idiot. So don’t do it!

And I’m also talking to you, special-offer-countdown-runs-out-at-midnight-tonight people. We’re not complete brain-dead Neanderthals, you know! We know everyone gets the same countdown, coz that’s JavaScript too!

(Our test guinea pig Gobala tries a variation on this trick too… “Price May Change Without Notice After   Tuesday, February 27, 2007.” Notice that big gap before the date? Little things like that are the first giveaway that there’s a script thing happening there.)

If you’re trying to gain our RESPECT enough to purchase your products, why treat us like fools?!


  1. Jan. 27, 2007 — Ah crap! Turns out Gobala is not a time traveller after all, and can in fact code perfectly acceptable JavaScript. The gremlin was a dear child of mine who managed to change the system clock on this computer (the family one) forward a month, creating (for me only) the delightful glitch on Gobala’s site. He’s not off the hook for using this technique (which is the main point of this post) — which I loathe — but relax folks, he’s not back from the future!

salesletters, copywriting, long-form salesletters, javascript, deception, conversion


Note: Commenter website links are not no-followed, in case
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  1. Posted 12 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    Alister, I’m with you – if I see one of these pages I’m outta there so quick you’d barely see the “hit” register!

    Yet those “in the know” swear by them….. Are we THAT atypical?

  2. Posted 12 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    Hi Alister,

    I just clicked on you from the 2000 bloggers project and wanted to leave a comment letting you know I stopped by and how I found you. I’m married to a programmer so although I don’t claim to understand the details of this java script post it’s not totally foreign to me. Best of luck to you in your blogging and business!

    Holly’s Corner

  3. Posted 12 years, 5 months ago // Permalink


    Your update made me laugh. As I was reading the post I was thinking that Gobala’s system clock was wrong!

  4. Posted 12 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    Hi Al,

    Love the post.

    You know how i love direct response marketing so I have to tell you that despite this being a less than ethical tactic….it is a tactic that works. Time and Time again i have seen it pull better than any other trick on a page.

    Its not something that i practice on any of my or my clients sites but if i was less than ethical than i would use it everyday 😛

  5. Posted 12 years, 5 months ago // Permalink

    I guessed the punchline before it came up! I think the real moral of the story is to never rely or trust any data at the user’s end.

    Direct sales letter pages may not find a receptive audience in the people above (and presumably the person reading this) — but you’re reading a blog. By definition you’re computer savvy. Probably most of you prefer dot points rather than sentences.

    Most of the population isn’t like this though. It’s the mass market that is being targeted, and advertisers *do* try alternative approaches. They choose the one that gives the best results.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. clients who love it, and for good reason: it is proven to work… it makes things sell. And there are the standard array of tricks and techniques that people use on these salesletters… you know the kind: highlighting everywhere, endless bullet […] (Read on Source)

  2. […] was just reading a great post on Alister Cameron’s blog, exposing the use of Javascript generated datesstamps to say “This Offer Expires… … […]

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