Commentary

Peeking At Someone Else’s Email

Peeking at someone else’s email is sort of like looking inside a lady’s purse: you’re just not supposed to do it. But I’m snooping through my kid’s email to see first-hand just what kind of deviates and wackos troll for kids on the Web.

I’m not fully prepared for what I find.

Advertisers who use offline media like television and magazines tend to run aspirational messages: slick cars, sexy vacations and smooth beer point the way to a better life. “If only I had that, I’d be happier.”

By contrast, email advertisers’ mission is to rescue you from the many hells of the real world. No matter how dreadful your condition there’s an email advertisers out there who’s peddling a cure.

I’m looking through Greg’s email. Greg is my fourteen-year old son, who has graciously neglected to clean up messages he has received over the past, oh, several months, so there’s lots of great stuff to wade through:

“Improve your bedroom performance.” This could be useful, as Greg’s bedroom performance has been slipping lately. But on the other hand, his dining room and living room performances have been improving.

“Platinum Visa: No annual fee.” Potentially an excellent enhancement to his weekly $10 allowance.

“Are you worried about what your spouse or children are doing on the Internet?” Sadly, no. Greg has yet to find that perfect spouse and, to my knowledge, is childless.

“Stop back and joint pain fast and forever.” I wonder if this advertiser is aware the ‘forever’ is a very long time for a teenager.

“Hair growing products for bald man.” Now that you mention it, I have noticed a few more strands of hair than usual in Greg’s sink lately…

“Invest money while you shop.” Another potentially excellent allowance enhancer.

“Lose weight while you sleep.” A wasted message. At 107 pounds dripping wet, Greg’s hummingbird metabolism can’t afford much weight loss.

“Debt consolidation!” Will come in useful if he signs up for all those free credit cards.

“Bloussant...all natural results in less than 4 weeks!” Turns out they’re talking breast enhancement. Greg’s solution: pushups.

“Golf Tip of the Day - The Coat Hanger Drill.” Should come in handy on that tough windmill hole.

“Bank error in your favor!” Only if he’s playing Monopoly.

“Win $10,000! Free poetry contest.” Certainly much more than the going rate for good poems in his ninth grade English class.

“$225 free exclusively for you.” Even Greg would sense there are strings attached here.

“FIND OUT EVERYTHING YOUR CHILD AND/OR SPOUSE IS DOING ON THE INTERNET.” This one’s all in caps -- perhaps they know something I don’t know? Maybe Greg is married…or has children…and/or both!

So from Greg’s point of view, the average consumer targeted by email advertisers appears to be fat, broke, balding, and impotent. But lucky for him, all those Web marketers out there are just dying to make his life better.

-- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of Evaliant, one of the web's leading sources for online ad data.

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