FTC Spam Forum Day Two

If the first day of the FTC Spam Forum in Washington DC, focused on legislation, the second was all about logistics.

Panelists from all sides of the email marketing world all blamed huge losses of time, productivity and money on spam, (Nortel Networks, for one, calculated every piece of spam costs their company 1 minute of lost time, which equals $1,) and most agreed that if only email marketers would agree on and follow a set of best practices, spam would not be as much of a threat to the medium as it is now.

According to Lisa Pollock Mann, Senior Director of Messaging at Yahoo, most ISPs are currently spending huge amounts of time and capital on fighting spam, to make sure their users don't drown in unwanted email. To that end, most ISPs employ various email filters and blockers, which continue to raise concern, and even First Amendment issues, among email marketers and other groups.

To make sure legitimate email finds its way to the intended recipients, several panelists agreed that email filtering and blocking, now employed by most ISPs, should be based on "consent, not content," said SpamCop's Laura Atkins.

The presenters at the forum nearly unanimously agreed that consent should be obtained via "confirmed opt in" as opposed to any other approach. Forum participants also agreed with Bigfoot Interactive CEO Al DiGiodo, who said that marketers must understand that when consumers give marketers permission to send them email, that "permission is not transferable."

Once the email campaign begins, marketers should remember that "there is no room for deception," as Michael Mayor, President of NetCreations Inc., put it, when it comes to subject lines and return addresses of email messages. "From lines and subject lines are the meat and potatoes of direct marketing," he said. Anna Zornosa, CEO of email marketing services provider Topica, added that if marketers send email with deceptive subject lines, their open rates get "pummeled" immediately.

To keep things in perspective, Bigfoot Interactive's CEO Al DiGuido said that despite the talk of spam as a threat to the email medium, "email is still winning marketers from traditional media," because it offers better ROI. He also said that federal legislation will probably fall short of solving the spam problem, because "what needs to change is the economic relationship between ISPs and marketers."

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