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IAB's Mayor Withdraws Support For AIM Best Practices Document

With direct marketing under siege over spam, fallout continues from what some in the industry perceive as the Direct Marketing Association's mishandling of subsidiary the Association for Interactive Marketing and its Council for Responsible E-mail's long-awaited e-mail best practices document.

Michael Mayor, e-mail committee chairman of online brand advertising trade group Interactive Advertising Bureau and president/CEO of e-mail list development and management firm NetCreations, no longer plans to endorse the document to the IAB's members, DM News has learned.

This news follows Ian Oxman, vice president of e-mail consulting for RappDigital Innovyx, the e-mail marketing arm of Rapp Collins Worldwide, resigning as co-chair of AIM's e-mail deliverability committee and RappDigital Innovyx letting its AIM membership lapse.

Oxman cited concern with the direction AIM was taking on e-mail issues, specifically that its parent, the Direct Marketing Association, was undermining AIM's efforts to promote permission-based e-mail marketing practices, as reasons for leaving AIM.

The best practices document, which was supposed to be published last month, was meant to help e-mail marketers navigate sensitive issues, such as how to avoid spamming. But it reportedly has been put on hold pending DMA changes and approval.

Before it went to the DMA, the document had the IAB board's endorsement, according to Mayor.

But early versions of the document set stricter standards than the DMA endorses for e-mail marketing.

“We thought we were looking at a final document; one that I and many others felt strongly about,” Mayor said in an e-mail exchange. “I personally went to bat for them by getting IAB board members to sign off on it.”

That, however, was before the DMA reportedly began editing it.

For example, an early version included a definition of spam that the DMA thought was too broad, according to sources. It also said marketers should not send e-mail without permission or a prior business relationship, and then defined various types of permission.

But the DMA maintains that its “four pillars” of responsible e-mail marketing — honest subject lines, accurate header information that has not been forged, a physical street address for consumer redress and an opt-out mechanism that works and is honored — are the keys to a cure for the spam flooding consumers' inboxes.

“If the DMA makes significant changes to the [AIM best practices] agreement, I will fight for the original document to be issued as an IAB initiative,” Mayor said.

The IAB claims more than 100 member companies representing more than 75 percent of online advertising sold in the United States.

When Mayor was named chairman of the IAB's newly formed e-mail committee in October, he said the DMA was pigeonholing e-mail and had too much political baggage to simultaneously serve its traditional membership and endorse permission-based e-mail.

And that's where the rub is with AIM's e-mail best practices document, according to sources close to the situation.

DMA officials think releasing a document that endorses permission-based e-mail marketing may undermine the association's efforts on Capitol Hill to press for spam legislation that takes aim only at e-mailers who commit fraud, or who don't allow or honor opt-out requests or who mask their identities.

However, with spam filters increasingly preventing legitimate marketing e-mail from being delivered, some Council for Responsible E-mail members thought it was important to craft a document explaining marketplace realities, such as the importance of permission-based e-mail marketers establishing relationships with ISPs to ensure their e-mail gets processed properly.

It is unknown whether or when the best practices document will be released.

Michael Della Penna, chief marketing officer at New York e-mail service provider Bigfoot Interactive and CRE co-chair, deferred to Louis Mastria, director of public and international affairs at the DMA, who did not immediately return a call for comment.

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