Sunday, July 08, 2007

Using Bad Marketing to Hide a Weak Product?

So there's this new company that runs movie downloads over the Internet. They're advertising during the Tour de France coverage. I'm interested, and want to check it out.

Except, I can't for the life of me remember exactly what their name is. It's either Vengo or Vango, and because they pronounce it in the French fashion (the ‘n’ is muted), it's difficult to be sure. Only at the very end, and only for a brief split second, do they show the URL.

I visit It's a generic NetworkSolutions page. Okay, so someone's parking it. (But why not the actual vendor?)

So, clearly, it's But all that has is a corporate logo and “coming Soon...” [sic]. Huh? So why are they running TV ads?

After a while I finally determine that they're actually Vongo. What does their home page offer?

  • the software download
  • “View TV Spot” (yeah, right...)
  • “View Free Movie Clip” (better...)

But click on the crucial link, “Learn More”, and you get a Flash animation of three ridiculous people labeled “parking”, “shrink” and “funeral”. You have to choose one of these three to get a tour of Vongo.

Well, I don't want a tour, I just want the facts. “Ask Vongo” takes you to some strange combination of FAQ and interactive question answerer with an excessive amount of gratuitous JavaScript (e.g., links look like normal text until you mouse over them, then suddenly turn into blue the problem), all crushed into about 10% of my screen acreage. Clicking “How do I download Vongo?” starts off promising. Then the voice turns bizarre: “If you Click Open, the .exe file will not save on the customer's computer and you will be able to begin the installation” and stays in this voice subsequently (talking about “the customer”). The next sentence is,

If you click Save the .exe will save on the customers cusotmer, once the .exe is saved oyou will have to double click on the .exe to begin the installation.

[sic]. If you start trying to traverse the questions you rapidly get lost in this little q&a box, because there are no navigation mechanisms. (When people complain that browser features like the Back button are “accidental elements”, you feel like dropping them into this kind of interface and saying, “navigate away, buddy”.)

Anyway, amongst the “fundamental design flaws [that] are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws” (in Ted Nelson's memorable phrase), is this: deep in the bowels of this ridiculous information area you find out that they not only have DRM (not surprising), but that it limits you to a mere three devices. That means a couple with, say, a desktop and laptop machine each, and a fifth device that connects to the TV, are out of luck.

So maybe Vengo/Vango/Vongo knows more about their interface than I thought after all. Except I can't really decide whether tear out my hair (“shrink”) or slash my wrists (“funeral”) is more appropriate.

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