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Stupid Media Watch: Meet the Real Christmas Creep


By Ken Magill

Allow me to introduce you to Ben Popken, hack reporter and world-class punk.

Popken recently published a piece on headlined: “Christmas Creep is coming to your inbox even earlier this year” discussing how marketers are apparently sending Christmas email promotions earlier than ever.

“Retailers are constantly trying to edge each other out to be the one who gets to the shopper's pocketbook first,” wrote Popken.

“If you're sick of it all and want to trim back the Christmas Creep's visits from your inbox, make sure to be selective when giving out your main email address to companies.

“Email marketers believe, however, that people are happy to see the Christmas Creep. ‘You might see a small amount of people annoyed,’ said [Christopher] Donald [chief executive of the Inbox Group], but ‘most people think, hey, I can get these great discounts even earlier.’

“Believe what you want, spam man –- we'll be clicking ‘unsubscribe.’”

Turns out the real Christmas Creep here is Popken.

According to Donald, Popken never let on during the interview that he was going to go negative. Donald certainly didn’t expect to be called a spammer.

“Spam never once came up in the conversation,” said Donald. “This was 180 degrees from what we discussed.”

I wrote Popken an email to discuss his behavior. I did it without Donald’s knowledge. Donald’s a grownup and doesn’t need my protection. But I was appalled at how Popken’s behavior reflected on my profession.

I know, I know. If I were to write an email to every reporter reflecting badly on my profession, I’d wear out 17,000 keyboards.

But this punk hit home.

“Hi Ben:” my email began.

“My name is Ken Magill. I’m a trade writer who has been covering email and online marketing since the 90s.

“I spoke with Chris Donald yesterday about the piece you did on Christmas creep.

“He said the tone of your interview with him never even hinted that you’d professionally insult him by calling him a spammer.

“First, the email you wrote about is for the most part not spam. It is permission based.

“Second, as a strategist for the Inbox Group—the name implying they’re good at helping email marketers get their messages delivered to the inbox—one of the primary pieces of advice Donald will give clients is not to send email people don’t want.

“Inbox Group clearly spells out in its policy on spam that they require more than compliance with the law:

“So essentially, a self-employed professional whose business is based on helping clients send email people want and avoid sending email people don’t want was kind enough to carve out some time to speak with you and you returned the favor by calling him a hack and holding him up for public ridicule.

“Got anything to say?”

I have yet to get a response from Popken. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and… Nah, let’s not give him the benefit of the doubt. We all know he got the message. He simply chose not to respond.

Why? Because the only decent response would be: “You’re right. I was a jerk. Let me see what I can do to fix it.”

But in order to form a decent response, one would have to be a decent human being—something Popken is clearly not.

He’s just a punk through and through. I’ve covered Popken’s boorishness before.

And besides being a punk, Popken is also a Brooklyn-based writer. Being a writer in Brooklyn is one of the more precious things a person can be these days.

Fire a gun … no, wait a minute. This is New York. No guns. Shoot a rubber band from your bicycle while drinking a soda of no more than 16 ounces in any direction in trendy Brooklyn and you’re bound to hit a writer.

Popken also runs a writers’ workshop. Writers’ workshops are gatherings where self-absorbed, precious gasbags go to boost their esteem by reading their work to others who are there for the same reason.

So a writers’ workshop in Brooklyn is precious squared—exponentially precious, if you will.

Imagine the conversations:

Vilma: Hey Sebastian, what are you doing after workshop tonight?

Sebastian: I’m going to the “We’re So Precious We Poo Sushi” Frappe, Latte, Cappuccino and Espresso Bar to do a poetry reading. Would you like to join me?

Vilma: Oh, yes! I’ve never been to the “We’re So Precious We Poo Sushi” Frappe, Latte, Cappuccino and Espresso Bar!

Sebastian: Well, the WeSoPrecWePooSu doesn’t let just anyone in, you know. Also, remember: To show appreciation for an artist’s work at the WeSoPrecWePooSu you don’t clap.

Vilma: No?

Sebastian: No.

Vilma: Then what do you do?

Sebastian: You put your hands up and wiggle your fingers like this. It’s called “twinkling.”

Vilma: Oh, okay. No clapping, just twinkling. I can’t wait to twinkle over your poem! What’s it called?

Sebastian: It’s called The 20th Century Monolith to False Conscienceness: Silent, Desperate Yearnings in the American Suburbs.

Vilma: Oh, Sebastian, it sounds brilliant! Twinkle, twinkle!

Sebastian: Yes. Twinkle, twinkle.

Author’s note: I would like to take credit for We’re So Precious We Poo Sushi, but I can’t. The name was a contribution by friend and colleague Paul Bankert. Thank you, Paul.


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