IAB Publishes E-Mail List Guidelines

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The Interactive Advertising Bureau released e-mail list rental guidelines yesterday, but will direct marketers notice? Dubbed the Ethical E-Mail Guarantee, the guidelines aim to build confidence in e-mail marketing among brand marketers who are wary of getting burned by fly-by-night list owners.


They are the first initiative from the IAB's e-mail committee, which was formed in October to inform brand marketers about the benefits of e-mail marketing without pigeonholing it into direct marketing. Under that goal, the guarantee is part of the e-mail committee's mandate to set guidelines on e-mail marketing and accredit companies whose practices are in compliance with them. The initiative addresses some of e-mail list rental's more common pitfalls.


For example, e-mail marketing is rife with stories of merchants getting their reputations damaged as a result of renting lists from owners who claim the addresses are of people who have agreed to receive e-mail, but haven't.


"By incorporating the EEG into the [list] ordering process, advertisers and list providers will show in no uncertain terms that they are firmly supporting responsible e-mail marketing," Michael Mayor, chairman of the IAB e-mail committee and president of e-mail list development and management firm NetCreations, said in a statement.


However, some marketers contacted for this article who wished to remain anonymous question whether the IAB, a group oriented toward brand advertising, is the right group to set list rental guidelines. The IAB claims more than 100 member companies representing more than 75 percent of online advertising sold in the United States, such as AOL, CNET, MSN, Overture, Walt Disney Internet Group and Yahoo.


Mayor said he has contacted the Direct Marketing Association's Association for Interactive Marketing to see whether it will adopt the IAB guidelines.


"They haven't said anything, but I'd love to have ... support across organizations on this thing," Mayor said. "They just saw it this morning, so I don't know what they'll have to say about it."


However, Ben Isaacson, former executive director of AIM and now co-chairman of AIM's Council for Responsible E-mail, said adopting guidelines is not a simple process.


"In the association business, you come out with resolutions, best practices, educational resources, advice ... if you come out with guidelines, you have to be prepared to back them up and enforce them," he said.


He added that the IAB document looks more like a guide on how to create a list-rental insertion order than guidelines.


Isaacson left AIM to form his own consulting firm, the Isaacson Group, in Aspen, CO. He took over the CRE co-chair role when Christine Frye resigned in October.


In any case, AIM's Council for Responsible E-mail has formed a subcommittee on e-mail list management and brokerage, which no doubt will tackle some of the same issues as the IAB's e-mail council.


No one contacted would comment on the record on whether AIM's CRE will collaborate with the IAB e-mail committee.


Kevin Noonan, who was named AIM's executive director in October, said in a statement, "Honoring an insertion order is already a logical industry best practice, since no legitimate marketer wants its list vendors to use anything but permission-based lists."


Meanwhile, the guidelines are as follows:


• List provider guarantees that all records they deliver to on behalf of the client specifically agreed to receive third-party offers.


• List provider agrees to fully disclose the source of any e-mail address record delivered to on behalf of the client, including the exact method by which permission was obtained, upon inquiry from either the client or any individual receiving e-mail from the list provider on behalf of the client.


• List provider assures that it is mailing the contracted volume to unique e-mail addresses in the exact quantity ordered. List provider will not jeopardize the client's brand by over-delivering above the contracted amount unless specifically requested by the client through an amendment of the contractual terms.


• List provider assures that delivered mailings are sent to the exact select criteria designated by the client in the contractual terms as determined by the contact's most recently recorded data with the list provider.


• List provider agrees to honor all unsubscribe requests that may result from the campaign.


• If the list provider violates any of these guarantees on a contracted mailing, they will refund the invoiced amount.
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