Stupid Media Watch: The Anti-Marketing Narrative Lives
By Ken Magill
Just when I think I can no longer be shocked by the anti-marketing idiocy that appears in the consumer press on a regular basis, another more egregious example comes along.
The Greenwich [CT] Citizen last week published an opinion piece by a contributor, and reportedly former Pittsburgh television reporter, Beth Dolinar headlined “Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam…”
As I read the piece, I literally cocked my head to the side like a confused dog.
“Can her spam filters really be that bad?” I thought. “Or is she just a complete idiot?”
The piece begins by bemoaning spam. Fair enough, but then she recounts how she supposedly interacts with it. The excerpt is long but worth the read for the sheer fairytale quality of it:
“Every morning I log on to find about 30 emails waiting for me,” Dolinar wrote.
“And most mornings, 29 of them are junk come-ons from companies that want to reduce my debt, clean up my skin, sell me wall art, make me skinny or vet my dentist.
“Except for the skinny part, I'm not interested, and I kill it all. But I'm sick of it.
“The junk jumps the wall and lands in my New Mail box, making itself comfortable and wasting my time.
“This morning, after deleting the 10,000th note from people who want to know if I'm happy with my love life, I'd had enough, and spent the next half hour going through the tedious drill of ‘Unfriending’ all of it once and for all.
“Just try finding where to click.
“Most sites hide the Unsubscribe at the very bottom of the page.
“And it's the size of this period. Sometimes, it's further obscured with a pale blue font, like a line of little ghost fleas. I thought my reward for finding the thing would be instant obliteration, but no.
“I was then catapulted into another page of red tape. Unwilling to take the hint, they now want to know all about the person who is rejecting them: Age, address, birthday, gender, phone number, interests.”
“OK, so after spending another minute filling in the questionnaire, it is time to click and end it all. But where's the button?
“Oh, there it is. At the bottom of the page where I've told them all about myself there is large, red button that says CANCEL. I want to cancel my subscription to this spammer, right?
“Wrong. By clicking, I have canceled all the work I just did telling them about myself so they would stop spamming me.
“What I should have done was scroll WAY to the bottom of the page and look for the teensy, pale blue word unsubscribe.
“Now I have to start over. And this is just one of hundreds of spammers.”
Maybe Dolinar can be forgiven for being unaware that the excruciating unsubscribe process she recounts is illegal.
Under the Can Spam Act, email marketers must make available a one-click unsubscribe function.
The reason I say “maybe” she should be forgiven is because one Google search using the phrase “can spam unsubscribe requirements” brings back a slew of links to easy-to-understand explanations of the law.
Moreover, she presents the process as if it is typical when anyone with an email box knows it’s not.
So maybe she shouldn’t be forgiven.
But the truly troublesome aspect of Dolinar’s piece is that it presumably went through at least one editor before it was published. More likely at least two, because it was published in Pittsburgh-area newspaper the Observer-Reporter, as well.
Didn’t anyone on the editorial staff at either of these two newspapers look at Dolinar’s piece and say: “Wait a minute. This is completely out of whack with my own email experiences?”
The anti-marketing narrative is so ingrained in the consumer press that anything portraying the profession in a negative light is given little to no scrutiny.
As I finished Dolinar’s piece, I noticed she has an AOL address, giving her column the appearance of someone still on training wheels writing about mountain biking.
That would explain a lot.