Editorial: You Called the Avon Lady What?

A firestorm of e-mail arrived from the anti-spam camp during the past two weeks.

The reaction to iMarketing News' last editorial was predictably fierce, and ironically included plenty of, well, spam resulting from one or more folks forge-subscribing [email protected] to a slew of lists.

The anti-spammers are upset over Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC's settlement with Experian eMarketing under which neither Experian eMarketing, Denver, nor its clients have to implement so-called fully verified opt-in e-mail address collection.

As a result, certain system administrators are reportedly creating a list of IP addresses assigned to Experian, aiming to permanently block each one.

Among the reactions to an editorial calling the behavior “mind-numbingly inappropriate” was the following fairly representative post in an anti-spam discussion group:

“Reminds me of that Avon lady that kept dumping her paper-spam in a plastic bag onto my front lawn, out of her moving vehicle, and who was told into her face by me that she's a spam-whore, after being told not to do this on 2 prior occasions.”

She's a what? Granted, her behavior if reported accurately is unacceptable.

However, the next paragraph is indicative of the most crucial part of the radical anti-spammer mentality when it comes to marketers. It attempts to rebut the contention that a direct marketing industry in trouble equates to a nation in trouble:

“Gee. On Sept. 12th, people were shopping for new SUVs at my car dealer — and right now, the delivery time for a new Honda van has jumped to about 3 months! That sudden rush to the car dealers must be the result of all those coupons DMA members trash the nation with — which I use as fire starter. I have yet to fail to ignite a fire for lack of fire starter!”

And there you have it. Set aside for a moment that the writer is using a single car dealership as a national economic indicator. Underlying every argument the radical anti-spam camp advances is a general hate for all direct marketing, not just e-mail. And while their arguments against spam are unassailable, marketers should understand that radical anti-spammers paint every direct marketer with the same mile-wide brush. They despise unsolicited advertising, period, and use the spam issue as a convenient way to take potshots at the industry in general.

Communication from the anti-spam camp wasn't all irrational, however. One writer described why system administrators can be so vicious.

“What if you had to call and ask for removal from each TV programming house as they remotely flipped on your TV so you didn't miss their commercials?”

A lot of system administrators' frustration stems from powerlessness, he said, “when suddenly some number of [e-mail service providers] turn on the fire hoses. [M]ailboxes, disk drives, error logs, mail logs fill up, a local CEO taps in from his hotel room to get his mail after a vacation and calls screaming about how it took 30 minutes to get one notice from his secretary that he almost missed in the maelstrom … and we're nearly powerless to stop it.”

The guy's got a point.

DMA Show More Than Worthwhile

Meanwhile, to all direct marketers who didn't attend the Direct Marketing Association's 84th Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago last week: You not only missed a historic moment, you also missed out on some serious business.

Everyone interviewed said they got more than enough solid leads to pay for the trip.

“Business was great for us there, more leads than any show we've ever done,” said Tricia Robinson, vice president of marketing communications at Socketware, Atlanta.

One exhibitor theorized that the lead quality was so high because only those who considered the event business-essential were there. “There's not a tire kicker in the bunch,” he said.

It was also nice to see a barroom full of direct marketers making drunken fools of themselves dancing to a cheesy disco cover band at KnowledgeBase Marketing Inc.'s party in the Hudson Club. It was about as nice a sign that at least something's right with the world as one could ask for.

“Watching direct marketers get drunk is like going to a wedding,” said DM News senior editor Kristen Bremner. “You think, 'Yeah, they're embarrassing, but they're family.' “

The chance to go to a trade show wrapped in such symbolism will likely not come again in our lifetime.

We welcome your views, opinions, news tips and questions — by phone to 212/925-7300, Ext. 220; by mail to iMarketing News, 100 Avenue of the Americas, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10013; by fax to 212/925-8754; or by e-mail to [email protected] Letters to the editor must be accompanied by a daytime telephone number and may be edited for space.

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