Home  › Email › Email Marketing

Clean Up Your Own Backyard

  |  October 6, 2003   |  Comments

Positioning yourself as a spam fighter is popular. What’s really being done to solve the problem?

A touchy topic for today. The very people suing spammers and proposing legislation to regulate direct mail and email just may be part of the problem. How ’bout them apples?

Below are two cases in point. One involves a major ISP; the other, some agencies representing the same politicians who, in front of the cameras, supported California’s recent spam legislation.

These examples underscore the need for the industry to ensure anti-spam solutions that are enacted will really work, which means closing the legal loopholes and abiding by both the spirit, and the letter of the law. Read on:

EarthLink, which has earned national attention for suing spammers left and right, has had problems with its advertising affiliates offering services on its behalf. One of my colleagues says, "I have been trying to unsubscribe for over a year from a known spammer’s list, and I keep getting all their spam. EarthLink’s trial Web site offer showed up last week."

Although EarthLink’s standard affiliate contract says it forbids affiliates to break the law, and the program is aimed at getting people to promote it via Web sites (rather than email), the contract’s language could be a lot stronger. This is a problem any marketer with an affiliate program needs to address, especially with the new California spam law going into effect.

For politicians, email is an essential tool, especially during election time. Two weeks ago, we received inquiries from California agencies eager to know if we had email lists of state residents they could target with political messages. No concern was expressed about whether individuals opted in to receive this mail. The new law doesn’t affect political messages, it applies only to commercial email messages, defined as "any electronic mail message initiated for the purpose of advertising or promoting the lease, sale, rental, gift offer, or other disposition of any property, goods, services, or extension of credit." Still, the thought of politicians using unsolicited email, then turning around and introducing anti-spam legislation that would forbid companies from doing the same -- in a bid to get elected or stay elected -- is disturbing.

Through the front door, these companies and politicians pursue seemingly honorable activities and try to pass legislation. Through the back, they send unsolicited mail, or fail to prevent their affiliates from doing the same.

What do we do? What power do we have? As marketers, we must adhere to best practices, speak out against sloppy legislation that will do nothing but spark lawsuits, and of course, adhere to laws once they’re enacted.

We should also inform and educate those who don’t understand the intricacies of the issues, particularly the mainstream press. They should be all over these stories.

It’s time to unleash any power we have to stop misguided legislation. Start by contacting California lawmakers in an attempt to reverse that state’s new anti-spam law, which seriously jeopardizes list rentals and other third party programs by requiring recipients to give permission directly to the advertiser to receive email.

As I said over a year ago, spam control needs to be in the hands of the people and no one else. I still feel this way. Despite all the lawsuits and legislation, I have yet to see a viable solution that blocks unwanted email and allows wanted email to get through.

The reason? Only the recipient knows which email is wanted and which isn’t. Although every single recipient of a legitimate opt-in marketing newsletter wants that email, many ISPs are probably blocking it.

Give people a simple way to indicate what they want to get and what they don’t. This is essential, and here’s why. I recently attended a conference that all the major ISPs and an attorney for the FTC attended. Unsurprisingly, none of them could yet agree on the definition of unsolicited email, even in cases where a recipient has provided third party mailers with clear opt-in permission to send email. Instead, they wound up debating the concept of "relevance." Relevance is a subjective term, and I for one do not want a company or a regulatory body deciding if the mail I send or receive is relevant.

Keep reading.

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!


Paul Soltoff

Paul Soltoff is the chief executive officer of SendTec, Inc., a direct marketing services company specializing in customer acquisition. SendTec combines extensive direct response experience with proprietary technologies to produce scalable results. Principal services include performance-based online marketing, offline direct response marketing and direct response television. SendTec represents advertising agencies and advertisers such as RealNetworks, AARP, Monster.com, AAA, Punch Software, MyPoints, Grey Worldwide, CosmetÍque Cosmetics, Columbia House, and Euro-Pro. Prior to starting SendTec, Paul was a founder and EVP of Saatchi and Saatchi's DRTV division in New York and has over 25 years of advertising, media and direct marketing experience.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get ClickZ Email newsletters delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.



    • SEO Specialist
      SEO Specialist (HeBS Digital) - NEW YORK                             ...
    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...