Marketers Take Their Tech Medicine at Authentication Summit

  |  July 13, 2005   |  Comments

As mailbox providers get ready to implement e-mail authentication, marketers converge for a brain dump on deliverability.

Worlds collided yesterday as an estimated 500 marketers and information technology executives met in a summit on email authentication.

Attendees of the E-mail Authentication Summit at New York's Marriott Marquis converged to discuss how to make sure companies get their outbound email delivered as mailbox providers implement email authentication in their battle against phishing, spoofing and spam.

Though most marketers prefer spending as little time as possible in IT territory, complying with email authentication technologies like Sender ID and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) has become a front-burner issue for marketing because it has the potential to affect email deliverability, according to organizers and attendees.

"This is the first conference of its kind where you have IT and marketing executives with a common goal [of ensuring deliverability of legitimate non-spam email]," said Michael Della Penna, chief marketing officer of New York-based email service provider Bigfoot Interactive. In six to nine months, he added, major mailbox providers will be making decisions about email processing that will affect marketers' ROI.

As a result, marketers like Andrea Vitale, vice president, direct marketing for Westbury, N.Y.-based 1-800-flowers.com, attended the summit hoping to make sure those decisions don't have an adverse impact on her company's outbound email.

"Every email correspondence with the consumer is marketing," she said. "And as a large marketing company that uses email as one of our biggest channels, I felt it was important to know what was going on from a deliverability standpoint."

Vitale added that though the summit's content was a little more technical than she needed, it gave her enough information to go back to her company and email service provider and ask the right questions to make sure 1-800-flowers.com is on the right track. "Authentication has been getting a lot of buzz lately," she said.

Though there isn't a direct correlation between email authentication and a reduction in spam, there will be an indirect correlation, according to Trevor Hughes, executive director of the E-mail Service Provider Coalition. Spam will decline as mailbox providers are able to sort incoming email more efficiently and, as a result, turn their spam filters up without accidentally blocking too much legitimate email.

"I think the fact that we have 500 people here is evidence that we've moved from the theoretical stage to the implementation stage [on authentication]," he said. "Deliverability remains a critical issue in our industry."

After authentication, next on the horizon for email marketers, according to panelists at the summit, is the implementation of accreditation and reputation technology by mailbox providers to assess whether an authenticated message comes from a responsible non-spamming marketer and should be passed on to the recipient, or if the email should get a second look as possible spam.

However, marketers can avoid trouble with any such technology by working to make sure their messages are relevant, panelists said.

"As you send messages that people want and value, your reputation with those people increases," said Miles Libbey, anti-spam product manager at Yahoo. "Then if your messages don't get delivered, people will get mad and go to another provider. So our interests are very much aligned here."

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