Warning! Unsolicited Internet Ad Coming Your Way!, Part 1

Remember the last time you asked for a commercial message?

I don’t. Who does? Who really wants to receive commercial messages?

Even if you sign up for an email list or accept pops, do you really “solicit” the endless blather of marketing messages you receive?

Let’s look at the definitions. According to “The American Heritage Dictionary,” “unsolicited” means “not looked for or requested; unsought.” “Solicit” means:

  1. To seek to obtain by persuasion, entreaty, or formal application.
  2. To petition persistently; importune.
  3. To entice or incite to evil or illegal action.
  4. To approach or accost (a person) with an offer of sexual services.

If you think about it, “solicited” advertising sounds pretty ugly. Persuasion, persistent commercialism, evil or illegal actions… or sex?

Unsolicited is the reality. Your ad is like an unsolicited manuscript or opinion. It says: You should buy this product.

The Internet Marketing Onslaught Begins

Internet marketing has shifted. The early, idealistic pioneers wanted to regulate and control marketing on the Internet. Now, guerrilla and traditional marketers have appeared, and they’re not overly concerned with altruism or morality.

What’s needed is a balance between the two extremes. In the end, the customer benefits.

Dream On! Managing Marketers Is Like Herding Cats

Here are the challenges we all face right now:

  • Internet advertising is changing as frequency and repetition of messaging rises. With so many advertisers competing, especially ballistic affiliate advertisers such as Virtumundo and X10, frequent communications and creative adaptability are the keys to survival.
  • Permission doesn’t necessarily imply solicitation. Being polite doesn’t always pay. Do you feel so guilty about advertising you’ll make your customers work to indicate their interests? Legally, your message is solicited. In reality, customers don’t explicitly request (solicit) every message you send.
  • Too much aggression undermines your efforts and will likely destroy your business. Extreme aggression works in the short run, then backfires (see AllAdvantage.com, CyberRebate.com, and others that imploded when the customers were overwhelmed with “permission” messages).
  • With all we hear in the media about pops, email, and anything Gator-related, you’d think the customers were the ones obsessed with the concept of opt-in marketing. They’re not. The “experts” are.
  • A small minority employs the word “unsolicited” in an attempt to create a landscape for the rest of us. That single word prompts people to insist all advertising be solicited. They want us to put “ADV” in email headers, make customers work to opt into lists, and explain every step of the way that they are being marketed to. What a great way to tube a campaign.
  • The very word “unsolicited” has become a touchstone for bias, regardless of whether a given advertising technique is genuinely awful or merely irritating.
  • Affiliate advertising, like all Internet advertising, is a low-response game. Low response requires high volume. Yes, that irritates people.

Though intentions are good, the reality is different. All advertising is inherently unsolicited. Real people don’t sit down and make a list of things they want to be pitched.

Must you surrender your ethics to play this game? Chill. This is advertising, not religion.

Next time I’ll look at the hallmarks of bad advertising — and how to fix it.

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