Internet expert predicts end of spam

26 May 2005

Despite the rise in unsolicited email in recent years, the end is in sight for the global spam epidemic, a leading internet marketing expert has predicted.

Speaking this morning at an Eircom small business briefing in Dublin, Denise Cox, an e-marketing consultant and Irish internet veteran, said, “I believe we’ll come to the end of spam.” She said a combination of factors was conspiring to close the door on the spammers. These included the aggressive targeting of big-time spammers in the US where it is estimated that just 10 spammers account for 90pc of unsolicited e-mail; the passing of the Data Protection Act 2003 in Europe which has led to national governments bringing spammers to court and threatening them with heavy fines; and the advent of sophisticated anti-spam software.

Cox also argued that email marketing techniques were evolving such that the traditional “cannon blast” method of harvesting as many email addresses as possible was becoming a thing of the past. Savvy marketers were now realising that email marketing was about quality not quantity and were moving away from building large databases that added no value.

However, despite the growing awareness of better email practices, many Irish organisations are still not adhering to the requirements of the Irish Data Protection Act in their marketing communications, she observed. The legislation mandates that email communication should contain a clear and prominent privacy statement, be easily unsubscribable and contain correct contact details. It also draws a distinction between business-to-consumer and business-to-business communications. “You can only send individuals email on an opt-in basis, ie, they have to agree to receive it,” Cox explained. “With business email, you can send it but they must have the ability to opt out if they don’t want to receive it in future.”

Cox said that international best practice in email marketing was to
make all communications with customers and potential customers as transparent as possible, so that the recipient clearly understands how their personal information is to be used.

She added that, for email marketing to be effective, it needs to follow the four ‘Rs’ – respect the privacy of individuals; achieve customer recognition through a descriptive subject line; provide relevant information; and be subject to constant review through monitoring email delivery and readership statistics.

Speaking at the same event, Rosita Wolfe, marketing and PR manager at The National Concert Hall, reported that when it comes to electronic communication, not all delivery channels are created equal. Despite the popularity of email and the internet with the NCH’s customer base, the arts organisation had mothballed the idea of using SMS for marketing purposes due to severe resistance. “We conducted a survey of 500 customers and found that 98pc of people don’t want text messages; they want email instead,” she said. Wolfe said the findings possibly reflected the fact that people regard their mobile phones as extremely personal and would view any marketing information as deeply intrusive even it were to come from a responsible and trustworthy organisation such as the NCH.

By Brian Skelly