The commission's rule applies only to messages sent without 'prior affirmative consent.'
Unsolicited email containing sexually oriented material must carry the warning "SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT:" in the subject line after May 19, according to a new rule issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The rule is aimed at helping consumers filter out messages they aren't interested in receiving. It's also meant to shield them from viewing offensive material, should they accidentally open the message.
The second aim is why such messages must also employ the electronic equivalent of a "plain brown wrapper." That means that people opening the message should immediately see only the warning, and other required information written in ASCII text -- not in an image file. Recipients would then have to scroll down or click on a link to see the message and any images contained therein.
The "wrapper" concept may prove a difficult one in practice, because of the different ways email clients display messages. The FTC acknowledged potential difficulties.
"Nevertheless, an initiator of sexually oriented emails is not without tools to ensure the 'initially viewable' portion of an email message does not force the recipient to be confronted with offensive and objectionable material," the FTC document says.
Required information in the "wrapper" includes the "SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT:" warning; notice that the message is a solicitation or ad; opt-out information; a physical address; and instructions on how to access the sexually oriented information.
The requirements don't apply if someone has given "prior affirmative consent" to receive such messages.
The decision is the first the FTC has unveiled since it began considering how to implement the CAN-SPAM Act, passed by Congress and signed into law late last year.
The commission has also sought comments on the Do-Not-E-Mail provisions of the law, and is preparing a report with recommendations. The deadline for public comment on other parts of the law was recently extended to April 20, after several trade organizations requested more time.
Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!
Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.
An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.
September 17, 2014
September 23, 2014
September 30, 2014
1:00pm ET/10:00am PT