Industry Group Splits With Madison Avenue Over Meaning Of Spam, New Guidelines Actually Define It
The definition is simple enough: spam is "commercial email sent without an existing business relationship or prior informed consent." But the IAB felt so strongly about including it in the guidelines that the organization split with the Direct Marketing Association, which issued its own statement (minus a definition of unsolicited commercial email) in conjunction with the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers last week.
Michael Mayor, chairman of IAB's email committee and president-COO of NetCreations, said the group worked with the DMA for nine months and was set to endorse its statement until the spam definition was dropped.
"We felt it was essential to have it in there," he explains. "By not defining it, you leave it up to legislators to come up with their own definitions. And in California's case, they came up with the wrong definition." [SB 186, signed into law by outgoing Gov. Gray Davis in September, baffled many marketers. They claimed its definition of spam was way too broad.]
Beyond the definition of unsolicited commercial email, the IAB/ESPC/TRUSTe affirmation includes little that wasn't included in the DMA/ANA/4As declaration. Among the key stipulations are: "unsolicited commercial email must not be sent" (the press release's thunderous sub-headline); commercial email should not be sent unless a business relationship already exists between the sender and recipient or the recipient has consented to receiving the messages; and commercial email must not include deceptive subject lines or messages.
When asked why the IAB hadn't issued guidelines any earlier, Mayor pointed to the organization's December 2002 "Ethical Email Guarantee," which proposed industry guidelines in regard to obtaining email lists. He also noted that the IAB had assumed it would back the DMA's statement. "We only motivated the troops when we saw things falling apart [over the spam definition]," he says. DMA spokespeople Louis Mastria and Christina Duffney did not return calls for comment by deadline.
Most pressing, Mayor added, was publicly avowing that interactive marketers are both respectful of consumers' wishes and deserving of their trust. "There has been a mass outcry from the interactive community for something like this," he says. "Look at the headline from the Orlando paper when the DMA had their convention down there ["Spammers, Telemarketers Share Secrets in Orlando," Orlando Sentinel, Oct. 14]. There's a perception that we must address, and this pledge is a step in that direction."