ViaGrow: The Pill that Puts the "Hard" into Liquor

By Jason Gotlieb 07/26/11

Addicts are fair game to be targeted online by "male enhancement" companies.

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"Alcoholic? Don't despair—ViaGrow will have you fully energized and pumping that rod in a flash..." So reads the online ad that ViaGrow—the self-proclaimed "world's best male enhancement"—is targeting at alcoholics. Unfortunately, a lost erection is not always at the root of an alcoholic's “despair.” In 2008 the Network Advertising Initiative decided that it would not aim ads at people with certain medical or health conditions, or certain personal life information. NAI does not track Internet users who may have erectile disfunction (ED) for example, or one of a list of psychiatric conditions. However, one condition excluded from the list is alcoholism. As a result people who check out websites owned by rehabs, say, or news sites reporting on alcoholism, ahem, may be targeted and tracked. As a result, Google and Microsoft won’t market ViaGrow to someone who actually has ED, but they would leap to do so to an alcoholic—whose ED is only a side effect of his supposedly "non-psychiatric" condition. The Fix contacted NAI’s Andrew Weinstein to ask why addiction is not on the list of medical conditions exempted from tracking, but at press time he had not responded. We'd love to provide a link to the ViaGrow ad—but "threats detected" keeps popping up when we go there.

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Jason Gotlieb is a programmer, software developer, and writer living in New York. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.