Sep 172014
 

RCG has long taken advantage of everything that tracking cookies, Google AdSense and other marketing and analytics tools offer to trace visitors and attract new ones to the cult’s website. It makes sense. When control and surveillance is targeted at the cult’s members to extreme degrees, those tendrils are going follow even the most casual browsers.

A lot of us have seen that visits to RCG’s website — and sometimes PCG’s website — have resulted in COG-related ads showing up on other websites. John Thornton, one of our readers, has tried to drill down into exactly how pervasive and intrusive RCG’s ads and visitor tracking are and has gone to great lengths to understand it. Afterall, who wants to see pictures of Herbert W. Armstrong teamed with RCG’s literature popping up unbidden on their favorite websites?

In a nutshell, RCG is blowing a lot of money to follow people around online with their annoying propaganda, primarily using Google’s DoubleClick. The solution is easy: delete your cookies. Beware that if you visit RCG’s website again, the cookie will get loaded again.

Some of John’s background:

I read some of Dave’s stuff years ago when I left WCG to join Global in 1994, especially the ‘144,000 reasons’ for following ‘the truth’ i.e. him (can’t recall the exact titles, but I’m sure you get the drift).  It was kinda ‘recommended reading’ at the time as we all awaited the next WCG bigwig to ‘come over’ to Global when there were enough tithes to ‘keep them’ – Salyer, Apartian, Adair etc. (I hope I’m not being unkind).  Indeed I phoned him in the States one evening and I think must have spoken with his late wife before he took the call.  He was fine and we chatted for a while.  That was before I left Global (just before it imploded) and later noted his views on vital Christian doctrines like hair length!  Indeed one wonders if Messrs Waldo and Mumford would have fallen foul of that ‘scriptural truth, in the cultures of those days J.

Having said that I got on well with Rees and Fanny Ellis (and her late mum/dad – Jean & Mme Carion), and (the late) Bob Devine.  All decent, kind, caring people – I just don’t agree with them now.  Indeed I was on record on the old Compuserve ‘WCG blogs’ for apologising having encouraged anyone to join Global (and I ‘got in’ a few to my shame).  Unfortunately some of that fell on deaf ears, even when I did so in person.  My wife of 47 years is a casualty of the WCG/GCG experience.  16 years down the line, she wants nothing to do with religion of any kind, but I live and pray in hope.

As an aside I visited the local Anglican church on Sunday (following an open invitation at a local gala), and when asked, briefly explained my background to a few, very nice people.  I’ve often likened the xCGs to a distillation process — WCG was 70 per cent proof whisky, but the offshoots (like LCG and Pack) to high-octane moonshine J  I think the local ‘bishop’ (that’s what they call their ‘ministers’) was wryly amused

Begin emails:

It may be of some help to your readers to know what David’s Pack’s RCG is up to when you just visit their website for a ‘peek’.

In a nutshell I had made a few visits to Pack’s site over the past couple of years, checking the odd view (such as his castigation of LCG’s small change toward ‘the rapture’ concept).  I became increasingly annoyed by the well-known HWA mugshot surrounded by the RCG advert popping up all over the place (see below).  On one occasion I was visiting a religious-oriented website which had no connection with xCG, and actually began to think that they were in some way endorsing him, or he them.   I also encountered it on financial/investment sites when I was researching this or that (can’t think why though!).

So the following is an email trail between the RCG PCD and myself.  My first ‘email’ to Dave/RCG was ‘forced’ through their webform (and where I had to give out more info that wanted to, just to register the complaint).  As such, it is not reproducible.  That complaint produced the ‘standard’, but somewhat woolly response (below).  However, and partly highlighted by their response, I decided to investigate further.  I found RCG/Pack are lying through their back teeth.  Every visitor to that site is then sent a ‘tracker cookie’ infecting their PC (nothing to do with Mr Pack of course).  It then follows you around the Net like a bad smell, and when you visit a particular site voila, up pops the previous incarnation of ‘Elijah’.  Now it is one thing for Pack et al  trying to portray themselves as the ‘real’ HWA successor, then shut up and sit down, it is quite another for RCG to then track you all over the Net, NSA-style.

He is using targeted Google Ads via the DoubleClick adware tracker (some would call it malware).  I’m sure I’ve seen it on Google Finance, but have just visited WND again tonight.  Guess what?  Here is the image and embedded link:

http://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/aclk?sa=L&ai=CPYkXDhbMU-auD4uM8wPN0YHYBYKZtfwDsuHlxWva9N30twEQASCegvYhUPDZjtf6_____wFgu_7Jg9wKoAGm6avbA8gBAuACAKgDAcgDnQSqBIoBT9CWJXCfWDNTVycWoAI-_lwwy2CqDPf3XVdbCP-bNz1d5-nUi7tnxz1PimqW4uKWCUFqsH3iF7rxCIFkEiYvJic6yyAIzbkj7tMUJjCaGYs_fb7jnRkEMGGOuE_7fRsrjk-gxNsIsIwiVRTSrgIiEO_eOLbxqIJbdPLg2QKZu7gtO7NXi-m37beA4AQBiAYBoAYCgAfCltQk&num=1&cid=5Gj6k6pA8kWMlaDf_xRxRRAn&sig=AOD64_2V7ZajoWvYKOdthG7cM5SlZC5ZWA&client=ca-pub-4586956504318665&adurl=http://rcg.org/sep/home.html%3Fs_kwcid%3DTC%7C1028308%7C%7Cwww.wnd.com%7CC%7C%7C29511385730&nm=3&nx=67&ny=38&mb=2

Note:  ‘Google Ad Services’ highlighted above, but what is not generally realised is that DoubleClick strikes a ‘gotcha’ when you follow the above link.  This is tantamount to a TV ad ‘freely given’, followed by a knock on the door — and in the UK there are laws against that.  I’m not sure if sites like WND have any reciprocal financial arrangement, but I’ve written to ask them that question.

Fortunately my internet banking doesn’t have such popups, but you do start to wonder just what data is being captured/exchanged and by whom.

The rest is below.  I don’t apologise for my ‘direct’ language to Mr Pack.  If I met him in person I would tell him the same thing – he can bellow, mark, DF or stick pins to heart’s content.  Or he can simply change and stop this behaviour.  I try not to be ‘accusatory to the brethren’ but when I read some of the other abuses, you have to wonder about the status of some ‘brethren’.  There is only one Truth and Shepherd that matters to me.

BTW, this site might be helpful for concerned readers:  https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/8091?hl=en.

This YouTube video is also worth a view:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHR1pRciJGk  It deals more with the RCG ads that pop up all over the ship when you google: ‘church of god’, ‘religion’, ‘prophecy’, ‘healing toothache’, ‘feast bunions’ or whatever.  So I am not alone here.

FWIW and use whatever material you like.

Regards

John Thornton

Email exchange between John and RCG:

Dear Dave,

Thank you for your response, but, with respect, please don’t try extracting the proverbial.

This is not Google doing something that you cannot control (see my highlighting of your response below, and following).  You wrote:  we believe there is an Internet web browser “cookie” enabled that is used by Google for advertising purposes”.  ‘We believe’, as in ‘oh, somebody else must have done it while we weren’t looking’?  As if you are truly gob-smacked and didn’t know!  Come on, what do you take me for?

You know very well that it is display advertising paid for by you through the Google Analytics/DoubleClick ad tracker tools.  The following are a few lines of JavasScript that appear on every one of your web pages that I visited (about 6) and viewed the source.

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/conversion.js“>

addthis_config==”undefined”&&(addthis_config={}),addthis_config.data_ga_property=uaID,addthis_config.data_ga_social=!0,_gaq=_gaq||[],pluginUrl=”//www.google-analytics.com/plugins/ga/inpage_linkid.js”,

(“https:”==document.location.protocol?”https://”:”http://”)+”stats.g.doubleclick.net/dc.js”,gaScript=document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)

While tracking visitors for ‘feedback’ purposes can help control advertising spend/response, DoubleClick is very invasive.  It is targeting adware designed to analyse/track visitors, and keep advertising to them — which is why I see the unwanted, pirated HWA mugshot popping up on sites I visit, from the papacy to personal pensions.  In fact I have to run anti-virus/adware programs periodically to get rid of DoubleClick and it keeps coming back.   In your case it is because the JS on your site deliberately links to it!  Think about that in evolutionary terms – it didn’t just get into your websites’ source code by itself.  Thus you are infecting my PC every time I visit your site (which will not be too often after this experience).

Information on DoubleClick is available and clearly explained at https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2472739?hl=en-GB and http://www.ehow.com/how_4882019_remove-doubleclick-adware.html and elsewhere.

I spent many years in IT and I’ve been in business long enough to know when someone is pulling the wool.  Moreover since I wondered whether this was straight out of AC Pasadena or maybe just some good old money-spinning ‘televangelism’, I decided to check who else might be up to the sort of thing the NSA are getting worldwide pelters for.  Therefore I had a quick look through the following sites:

  • WCG/GCI
  • LCG
  • UCG
  • PCG
  • CBCG
  • COG-PKG/Weinland
  • CCOG
  • COGWA
  • Koinonia House
  • John Hagee
  • Jimmy Swaggart
  • Benny Hinn
  • Morris Cerullo
  • TBN
  • WND
  • BeforeItsNews
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Church of England

While some use Google Analytics, none had Google Ads or DoubleClick coded into their site.  In other words they publish their message and leave you in peace when you exit.  Even with the questionable track record of some of the above, nevertheless they are behaving responsibly in respecting people’s privacy.

I did however find two sites which also use the Google Ads/DoubleClick targeting trackers:  http://vatican.com/ aka Vatican City. and the Mormon Church site.   In fairness the Vatican City site is an event booking one.  It is a place rather than a church, so they are selling tourism, which is fair enough.  The ‘religious’ RC sites like Pope Francis’ don’t use DoubleClick ad tracker.  The Mormon site also hosts (or links to) a great deal of genealogy data, so there will be good reason for assisting re-visitors doing research.  However, while I have visited that site many times over the years, I have never had the kind of ‘in your face’ pop-ups that you employ.

Like I said before, please stop behaving like a pariah and targeting the likes of ex-WCG members – and for the usual reasons, not necessarily soteriological.  And please don’t sign such a deceitful disclaimer ‘In Christ’s service’ – when you know the score.  It does nothing for your street-cred, and I would seriously question whether  Jesus Christ would have His servants behave like this.

You also wrote:  “Please let us know if there is anything else that we may do to assist you.”.  I think you have my answer.

Regards

John Thornton

 

From: Personal Correspondence Department [mailto:pcd@rcg.org]
Sent: 18 July 2014 14:39
To: globetrotter@firenet.ws
Subject: Response from The Restored Church of God

Dear Mr. Thornton,

We are sorry to hear you are experiencing problems with our online advertising. Based on the description you submitted, we believe there is an Internet web browser “cookie” enabled that is used by Google for advertising purposes.

You will need to clear your web browser “cookies.” This can be done multiple ways, depending on which browser you are using (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox etc.). You can usually find this option under “Settings” and “Browsing History” or “Clear/Delete Browsing History.” For step-by-step directions for your particular browser please visit http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=32050 for more information.

Once you have successfully cleared your web browser “cookies,” Google will stop displaying our advertisements to you.  Please note that once you visit any of our websites (rcg.org, realtruth.org or worldtocome.org), Google will once again begin displaying the ads until you repeat the process above.

We are sorry for any inconvenience you have experienced. Please let us know if there is anything else that we may do to assist you.

In Christ’s service,

Personal Correspondence Department

Personal Correspondence Department
The Restored Church of God

1000 Ambassador Drive

Wadsworth, OH 44281
pcd@rcg.org

Sep 132014
 

UCG’s disastrous, incompetent propaganda and promotional failures continue. What’s sadder is their smiling through the pain, trying to scrape some outward sense of victory to keep the sheep encouraged and confident that their leaders somehow know what they’re doing when it comes to running and growing a church. These are aging men who have proven inadequate at swimming in the modern media’s vast ocean, even when spending a considerable amount on marketing.

The true problem, of course, is the Armstrongist message rather than just ineffective marketing strategies. As the numbers show, considerable effort was put into promoting and preparing for the “Why Where You Born” seminar over the course of weeks, which produced less-than-paltry results.

Banned! and UCG have the attendance and cost numbers for the “Why Were You Born” fiasco:

Attendance at the event was over 200, including some local United Church of God members and Ambassador Bible College students. (Due to space limitations, the majority of local church members were not able to attend.) In addition, almost 400 webcast connections watched the event live online—representing more than a 1,000 people.

Particularly encouraging, was that the seminar drew 74 new guests, most having reserved tickets ahead of time, with a few showing up at the door for the event. Everybody who attended received a free seminar-themed notebook with pen and a copy of the United Church of God booklet Why Were You Born? (which was previously titled What Is Your Destiny?).

To break it down, UCG managed to produce:

8 red “Why Were Your Born?” billboards costing $2,500 each ($20,000 total) scattered across Cincinnati
1 million Pandora Radio ad impressions
2 weeks of Time Warner Cable ads aired 746 times on Fox News, History, USA, Hallmark, National Geographic and TV Land
85,000 Google Ads impressions
1,010 ad click-throughs
Failed use of the #whywereyouborn hashtag on Twitter and Facebook
5,400 letters from Victor Kubik sent to Cincinnati households on The Good News mailing list
28,530 emails sent to Cincinnati residents
430 emails sent to The Good News subscribers

resulting in:

“dozens” of online ticket “purchases”
1 hour of seminar time in a hotel
106 Twitter followers
126 UCG members in attendance
400 webcast connections to the seminar
74 new people* in attendance, which amounts to 0.032663871110130215% of Cincinnati’s 226,550 population

*more accurately, non-UCG people, which doesn’t necessarily preclude members from other groups

“Half a mark” on preaching the “gospel” UCG? Really? Best erase that mark and start from scratch. This was a pathetic failure. What’s worse, there will be no consequences or accountability for wasting the member tithe money spent on this embarrassment. Instead, UCG will simply rake in more money and burn more of it on the next hair-brained growth scheme.