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Stupid Media Watch: The Anti-Marketing Narrative Lives

4/24/12

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.”

Wow.

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?”

Apparently not.

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.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Quinn
Date: 2012-05-15 14:01:38
Subject: Spam

Her experience does seem out of the mainstream despite her trying to make it seem typical. I’ve read through thousands of spam emails in my research and very few present the unsubscribe function in such a convoluted manner. She also appears a bit naïve. Click the “cancel” button to “cancel her subscription to the spammer”? Really? And the fact that she would so willingly share such personal information requested from a simple unsubscribe request is baffling. One gets the feeling she would have handed over her credit card number if the unsubscribe request had steered her to a form asking for it. I guess the reason the editors at the Observer-Reporter let it through is that it was an opinion piece.
Posted by: Kimberley
Date: 2012-05-04 20:22:25
Subject: So, you think they're all compliant?

It's nice that you defend the spammers who are most likely YOUR client base, but until and unless you've seen all that's out here in the wild, don't be so quick to judge the author. Many of these "unsubscribe" links are a joke -- I never "subscribed" to begin with. Now I've just validated my email address. What incentive do spammers have to remove me from their lists? It takes time and effort for them to do so. Why do the spammers behind behind commercial mail receiving agencies and PO boxes and fake names, fake domains, and fake email addresses? I don't see the legitimate big name companies doing that. Why don't they have phone numbers? Why is their phone number in Washington State and their mailing address is a PO Box in New York? Spamming is the modern-day equivalent of a snake oil salesman. It is not a legitimate way to make a living, and shame on you who do. Get a real job. You obviously have skills -- put them to work for a legitimate company so you don't have to hide among your multiple identities, proxified IP addresses, fake domains, fake email addresses, etc. When you can give me clear answers to all of the above, I'll give you and your web site credibility. Until then, I don't think so.
Posted by: Stefanie Pont
Date: 2012-04-25 11:15:17
Subject: spam, spam, spam

So clearly Ms. Dolinar doesn't do this for a living, and I'm not sure we should ask anyone who hasn't been to a Buzz Party to understand the fine points of opting out. I will vouch for the fact that several so-called "compliant" email companies often forget to make sure that the happy little unsubscribe on the bottom of the email actually works. And I'd love to say that its her, not us, except for the death struggle I'm currently in to stop receiving email from some whackjob PAC that's several steps to the right of Ted Nugent, who's unsubscribe takes you to their fundraising donation page, and who's response to my post on their blog cannot be printed here, but included the term "femiNazi cow".
Posted by: Kelly Lorenz
Date: 2012-04-25 03:23:03
Subject: Good reminder

I think this story is a good reminder of the "Average Jane" and how they use email marketing. While Dolinar may be the exception to the rule by jumping through all of those hoops instead of just clicking spam or going through the email, we have to remember that there are more just like her out there. For marketers with a more mature audience, it's important to think about making things as easy and obvious as possible to account for email amateurs like Dolinar. Stories like this are, unfortunately, not uncommon. Many clients recount stories of customers calling in to complain about the unsubscribe process or angry about getting email they asked for explicitly.
Posted by: BN
Date: 2012-04-24 16:21:20
Subject: I don't think technology is here thing...

GPS technology a step in the wrong direction: http://www.greenwichcitizen.com/opinion/article/GPS-technology-a-step-in-the-wrong-direction-3333725.php

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