It’s been a week since the Email Experience Council’s spam campaign to its member list on behalf of women’s lifestyle magazine VIV was exposed here, and still no word from its parent the Direct Marketing Association on what it plans to do to restore credibility to its e-mail trade group.
Last week, the DMA said it was in the “process of reviewing the specifics” of the EEC’s spamming fiasco and that it would “take appropriate action as the facts unfold as necessary.”
Well, the facts—that the EEC sent a multi-spam prospecting effort to its members on behalf of a private company for which the EEC’s co-chair Jeanniey Mullen is vice president of marketing—were unfolded here in clear irrefutable fashion last week. And what do we get? Silence.
This is not acceptable.
The EEC has one defender in this whole spamming controversy: Tamara Gielen, a blogger about e-mail issues at BeRelevant and an employee at OgilvyOne. Over at deliverability consultant Laura Atkins’ blog Word-to-the-Wise.com, Gielen came to the EEC’s defense. Give her credit at least for putting her name on it. Most people comment anonymously.
“The EEC made a really bad and ugly mistake but you can take my word for it that they have learned from it and that it will not happen again,” she wrote.
OK, just stop for a second. Why are we to take Gielen’s word for anything on this? Did the EEC detail for her a single step it has taken to prevent this from happening again? Of course not. Currently, there is no reason to believe executives at the EEC recognize the seriousness of what they did. In fact, Mullen’s failure to take responsibility indicates they don’t. Therefore, there’s no reason to believe they won’t do something just as boneheaded again.
Gielen had more to say:
“I am not going to blog about this because I really do believe in the value of the EEC and what it brings to the industry,” she wrote. “It’s okay to call out a mistake, but do you really need to destroy an organization that is so worthwhile? I don’t think so.”
Coverage of the EEC’s spamming controversy in this newsletter is not an attempt to destroy it. It’s an attempt to help prevent it from turning itself into an irrelevant laughing stock through its executives’ own actions.
Moreover, the EEC isn’t solely at fault here. The DMA should take its share of the blame, as well. And the DMA should address the issue. Who’s in charge of making sure lists aren’t abused at the DMA? How can someone simply transfer a member list to another organization with no awareness of the transfer at the DMA? Is there a policy in place setting boundaries on uses of members’ addresses? What has the DMA done to make sure nothing like this will happen again?
The DMA has had little credibility on the subject of e-mail marketing ever since former president Bob Wientzen refused to denounce spam and took the position: “Unsolicited isn’t necessarily unwanted.” Acquiring the EEC was seen as a way DMA might get a much-needed boost in its reputation as a promoter of responsible e-mail practices. Now its credibility in this area is even more tarnished than it was before it acquired the EEC. Who the heck would have thought that could be possible?
But back to the EEC. Because of the channel’s rocky history, e-mail marketers have an inherent credibility problem within their organizations and with the public. The EEC doesn’t help matters when it suddenly develops a case of marketing Tourette’s syndrome and can’t control itself.
It is the duty of every single responsible e-mail marketer to demonstrate behavior that is miles apart from that of spammers. As a self-appointed representative of responsible e-mail marketers, it is the duty of the EEC to explain and illustrate to its members how to do this.
Through its spamming and then failure to accept responsibility for it, the EEC has utterly failed in this regard.
How in the world are e-mail service providers supposed to present their clients to ISPs as responsible marketers who should be given the benefit of the doubt when their efforts go awry and look spammy when the industry’s supposed lead organization can’t be trusted with its own list? Don’t answer. That was rhetorical.
The DMA must address this issue and explain honestly—with no excuses, because there aren’t any—how this happened and what it is doing to guarantee nothing like it will happen again. Some vague statement that the DMA plans to take steps as facts arise just doesn’t cut it.