Spamming for Victory

We all assume people hate spam so much that anyone who spams us will lose fame and gain disfavor forever. That theory will be put to the test over the next two weeks. Our politicians have discovered the joy of email.

The next couple of weeks will see bipartisan, wall-to-wall spam wars as both parties try to get out the vote in an election that looks Kennedy-Nixon close. Based on some sharp reporting by NEWSBYTES’ John Mintz, I’d have to say that many of these activities cross lines savvy marketers long ago learned to stay away from. Here are just a few examples:

Republicans are playing “spam a friend,” offering entry into a lottery for a Palm Pilot to anyone who recommends two “friends” for GOP email. (Would you like to bet some Democrat recommends two antispam on-the-fence voters?)

The Sierra Club bought 10,000 names of independent women in Pennsylvania and Ohio, two critical swing states. The women had told a liberal organization that they wouldn’t mind being contacted by “similar groups.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is buying lists of recent high school and college graduates who subscribe to business magazines from Juno then sending them get-out-the-vote appeals via email.

Those clever Republicans also bought 50,000 email addresses from Juno for a “push poll,” a supposed survey of attitudes concerning their candidates that are actually used to identify supporters.

Declan McCullough reported on Wired News that Democratic candidates around the country are apparently reusing lists compiled by the Bill Bradley campaign without auditing or vetting them.

Outright political spam is also sent by activists with no official affiliation; here’s an example.

The Juno operative who is selling Republicans on the joy of email is Roger Stone. Stone himself seems aware that the parties are treading on thin ice here. “In politics, if you anger 99.9 percent of people with spam, you’ve lost by a landslide,” he told Mintz.

But the definition of spam differs from recipient to recipient. Some people believe firmly that unless they’ve opted in to a specific type of message and had that opt-in confirmed by a return email, you’re spamming.

So here’s an idea that might actually turn this election: Let’s have the antispam activists deliver a report next week on the complaints they’ve gotten about politicians, and name names, please. That would be some news voters could use.

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