As a media buyer I receive somewhere in the vicinity of 5-8 cold calls from sales reps each week pitching me and my team on why we should be using them for our ad placements. Of these cold calls, 75% are email vendors whom we may never have heard of and that stink of desperation as they trip over their own colleagues to contact us and convince us of the integrity of their lists.
As a consumer, I receive close to 100 Spam messages every day between my two primary email addresses (work and personal). Of these messages, I typically read none. I'm used to seeing emails from "Jenny Jones," "Matthew Lesko" and numerous other people I have never met, and if I had read and believed everything in my inbox I would know that I NEED 50 lbs of fresh Maine lobsters, my septic tank NEEDS repair, that there is someone out there who WANTS to date me, and whatever it is, I may have won.
The previously recognized standards for Permission Based Marketing that Seth Godin coined and the industry adopted have been thrown out the window and as a result, email marketing is fast becoming the most consumer-despised element of the media mix. I recently performed an informal poll of some non-advertising industry folks I know and they ranked email marketing below telemarketing in terms of effectiveness and above it in terms of annoyance, citing that they can always choose not to answer the phone, but they can't stop the flow of email into their inboxes.
So what does this mean for us and for our industry? The proliferation of poor marketers who are utilizing Spam as a means of customer acquisition are bringing unwanted legal attention to our industry. Legislation that could impose postage fees on email is in the works, as is other legislation that could severely limit contact with customers and potential customers alike. These would all serve to decrease the amount of Spam that we see, but it could also affect the ability for the Internet to truly serve as a means of interaction and discussion between the customer and the company. If a company was limited by the amount of email that came in and/or was sent out to customers on a weekly or monthly basis by either financial or bandwidth restrictions, the affect on limiting the efficiency of communication could be detrimental to the growth of some aspects of our business. If the government can legislate against the use of email, what is to stop it from legislating against the use of Internet Messaging of other forms of communication?
Legislation is not the answer in my mind, however the only other way that I can come up with would be for our industry itself to take a stand and stop Spamming the consumer. Adoption of our own self-imposed standards such as double or triple opt-in permission levels or monthly scrubbing and/or renewal of opt-in for lists would be effective. Partnership between ISPs, email providers and industry organizations such as the IAB to isolate those domains that are responsible for the Spamming would also be a step in the right direction. It appears from my point of view that the majority of the Spam that comes through is delivered from a short list of Spammers and they are responsible for tarnishing the image of the Internet Ad community altogether (even more so than Pop-Ups). There are even some examples of strong brand marketers that have jumped on the bandwagon and utilized these Spam agents to send out emails on their behalf, hoping that the negative impact on their brands will be minimal enough to warrant their usage.
The 468x60 banner was beaten into submission and is no longer considered as effective as it was. Email is now dying a painful death and creating the ineffectiveness of the medium to translate over into legitimate, opted in lists. Why does our industry feel the need to ignore strategy and employ a tonnage motivation for reaching consumers? It seems that our industry is great at taking the easy road and jumping on the bandwagon of whatever flavor of the month it is that seems to be effective at driving customer acquisition while neglecting the long term effect of these tools.
Maybe for once we can start to think strategically and apply our own past history as a means of evolving for the future before we turn ourselves into a parody of what was and what could be?