Marketers Received Better on Day Two At Spam Forum

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WASHINGTON -- Marketing faired better on day two of the Federal Trade Commission's spam forum here yesterday than on day one.


At least, no one was booed as was Direct Marketing Association president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen, and no marketer drew repeated condescending giggles as did Las Vegas-based AAW Marketing's William Waggoner as he made combative assertions, such as accusing America Online of fabricating the number of spam e-mails it blocks.


But day two did get heated at points. During a panel on spam blacklists, Mark Felstein, director and chief counsel for EmarketersAmerica.org, stood up and accused panelist Alan Murphy of anti-spam blacklisting site Spamhaus.org and other blacklisters on the panel of having a mob mentality.


Felstein had Murphy served with court papers the day before. Murphy declined to respond.


Realizing it was an attack question, moderator Brian Huseman, a staff attorney with the FTC, told Felstein to sit down. And during the following break, witnesses said Felstein accused another attendee of threatening him, and FTC commissioner Orson Swindle placed his hands on Felstein's shoulders and told him to "calm down."


On a less combative note, examples of the costs of spam arose repeatedly. For example, Chris Lewis, security architect, Nortel Networks, said spam costs his company $5,000 to $10,000 daily in lost productivity, $1 for each e-mail that gets by Nortel's filters. Seventy-five to 80 percent of incoming e-mail at Nortel is spam, he said. And the number of spam e-mails Nortel receives is doubling every four to five months.


"Spam is having a chilling effect on the industry as a whole," Lewis said.


To which Al DiGuido, CEO of New York e-mail service provider Bigfoot Interactive, replied, "we need to put this in perspective. The e-mail industry is not in trouble." He said that spam is not the scourge of marketing.


"The scourge from a marketing standpoint is the cost of other media," he said, adding that the costs of paper and postage keep rising. "What has to change is the relationship between ISPs and marketers."


DiGuido advocates creating some sort of paid-postage system for commercial e-mailers so ISPs have more of an economic incentive to process their mail.


Lisa Pollock Mann, senior director of messaging for Yahoo, added that "online activity is not being squashed by spam."


Meanwhile, on another panel, participants from all sides of the spam debate agreed that requiring e-mail marketers to include "ADV" in their subject lines, as is the case in some states, is a bad idea.


"It's absolutely ridiculous," said Michael Mayor, president of e-mail list management and development company NetCreations, New York. "We don't know what state they're in, what country they're in. And what does it do to stop spam? Nothing."


Mayor added that "ADV" laws are written such that only unsolicited marketing e-mail is required to include ADV in its subject lines.


"If I use ADV, I'm raising my hand and saying 'hey, I'm a spammer!'" he said.


Privacy advocate Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters, added, "almost no one thinks ADV is a good idea."


If nothing else was accomplished, all attendees interviewed on the second day said they thought putting representatives of the various interests in a room together and airing the issues was a positive step.


"There has been a real dialogue here," said Laura Atkins, president of anti-spam nonprofit SpamCon Foundation.


"In the future, we'll look back on these three days as one of the most significant international events in dealing with spam," FTC commissioner Mozelle Thompson said in opening remarks.


In an interview later, he said he thought the forum already had shown concrete results, citing three pieces of recently introduced legislation.


Last month, Sens. Conrad Burns, R-MT, and Ron Wyden, D-OR, reintroduced a federal anti-spam bill. Last weekend, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, introduced his own anti-spam bill. And Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, unveiled plans this week to introduce a federal ADV law that would offer a bounty to consumers who identified lawbreakers.


All four of them addressed the FTC spam forum attendees.


Thompson said he hoped some of the congressional staffers in attendance were getting "a better idea of the scope of the proposals they've made and whether they'll be effective."


Many attendees and panelists said spam is more than just an issue of fraudulent and/or non-permission-based pitches. The problem is also one of sheer volume.


Thompson agreed, and warned direct marketers: "No one has said that [spam] is not a problem. Direct marketers need to think about how they're going to react to a changing environment."


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