Spam of the Times

I’ve been collecting interesting pieces of email marketing and outright spam since December 2000. I thought I’d share some of the inventive attempts to get my attention — and some of those attempts that failed.

There is definitely something to learn from the attitude prevalent in the opt-in as well as unsolicited bulk-mail community. You can judge for yourself, but it’s clear from the mini “case studies” below that even the best email marketers can fail or succeed.

1. Foreign Spam Has Taste?

Foreign spam is probably the best-looking spam out there. Forget that I can’t read it at all. It just looks cool, especially Asian bulk mail. And it actually looks like someone put some real time and effort into the look and feel of it. Foreign spam seems to use HTML, color, and graphics (sometimes even forms!) much better than its English-language counterparts.

I would like to apologize, up front, if one of the examples below is in bad taste, but I truly have no idea what they’re about. If someone cares to provide a translation, please email me, and I’ll send you the whole thing.

This one looks like it has a clear call to action, I think near the numbered “steps.” I really want to understand what it says. Somehow I hope it is more interesting or funny than an equivalent English spam.

This Asian “game” looks really fun and well designed. I wish I knew what to expect. It looks like it is a horoscope application in an email, which sounds fun, but I am really scared to press or enter anything at all for fear of something really, really bad happening.

This spam from Argentina looks like it is selling glass for skyscrapers that is earthquake-resistant, I believe. But I am not quite sure how I fit its demographic of “skyscraper glass-buying decision maker…”

2. Been Down This Road Before?

I receive opt-in emails from companies with which I actually remember opting in. But now I decide to unsubscribe via the very nicely put-together opt-out message. I get a confirmation but continue to get their email. Is this process so complex to do properly? Please, someone explain why this is so hard to do correctly.

Look at this interaction:

I unsubscribed from InstallShield’s mailing list on 03/25/01 at 2:51 p.m.

On 4/12/01, 12:48 p.m., I get another email. I am doing a little experiment to see how often unsubscribe procedures simply fail. I have proof that the company took action, but obviously something went wrong.

Opt-in subscribe and unsubscribe systems need to be audited to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do. And if there are multiple lists, tell me that in every email I get from you so I can opt in or opt out from one, some, or all of them. If proper unsubscribe procedures don’t work in your email campaign, I would go so far as to recommend you get rid of the unsubscribe procedures altogether. I’d rather not see an unsubscribe procedure rather than see one, use it, and have it fail on me.

Is Your ISP Leaking?

The Curmudgeon got a suggestion from a friend on a cool Web-based tool to check the email servers you use to send email. If you want to make sure your email servers are not passing spam along, check out this email-server relay tester.

This page tests your email server to see if spam can be “relayed” through it. Spammers piggyback on these relay servers and use them for free to send their email. If the email server you use for sending outbound email (also known as an “SMTP server”) passes all 17 tests, you’re fine.

Otherwise, you should contact your Internet service provider (ISP) and let it know that it needs to make its email servers more secure because they are slowly leaking profits. Tell the ISP to test its email servers at the www.abuse.net (Network Abuse Clearinghouse) link above.

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