One of the highlights for me was the deliverability panel, where some real heat was generated from the audience towards the two gatekeepers to Yahoo and Hotmail inboxes. Craig Spiezel from Microsoft, in particular, raised eyebrows of more than a few in the audience when he talked about a flower company's emails not being delivered before Mother's Day because the company used a new IP address that did not have a "reputation" associated with it: "Did we deliver those emails? We did not," he said. Spiezel went on to say that as a result, the company had a warehouse of wilting flowers.
I kept thinking not about the warehouse, but about all the mothers who would have received those flowers but did not. I wondered who speaks for the consumer. (I'll get back to this in a second).
Audience members wanted to know why the ISPs could not get together to come up with a common set of rules governing deliverability. As one audience member pointed out, trying to figure out and manage all of the various ISPs' differing rules and regulations was unfair and unwieldy for business to manage. Why couldn't the ISPs get together and agree on a clear set of guidelines. Based on the ISPs' answers, however, this is not likely to happen any time soon.
It was clear that the ISPs are trying to protect their consumers from unwanted email. The problem is, no one can figure out what is unwanted and what is not. Businesses, on the other hand, want to help consumers by supplying them with relevant emails that consumers have requested, and feel that blocking those offers harms consumers.
In fact, everyone was speaking for the consumers except the consumers themselves. I'd love to see a panel made up of average email marketing recipients to find out what they think!
I got a little taste of this when I went home and had to go straight to a dinner party and tell everyone about the Summit. One of the guests was a scenic artist who knows nothing about marketing, let alone email marketing. "I have a question for you," he told me. "I got tired of all the spam I was receiving, so I signed up as a 12-year-old. All of a sudden, I received no spam whatsoever. It was great. But then I went to buy something and they wouldn't let me use a credit card since I was supposedly under 13. I had to sign all sorts of forms proving that I was over 13 and as soon as I did, I started to receive spam again. Why can't I ask for an account that lets me be an adult and use my credit card, but request that I be marketed to as if I was 12? Why can't the consumer decide how much marketing they want?"