The Email Experience Council has some splainin’ to do.
The group’s co-chair Jeanniey Mullen last week claimed a spam e-mail sent to members by women’s lifestyle publication VIV was a one-time “free gift” and that multiple issues of the unsolicited magazine received by members was simply a case of “good intentions gone bad.”
Mullen also claimed that members’ information was not sold or rented to VIV.
In late April—just days before members would receive an unsolicited free issue of VIV Magazine three times—an e-mail was sent to EEC members pitching them on four free issues of the magazine. Multiple members have verified they received this message and that they did not sign up for it.
According to the “from” line, the pitch was from “email@example.com on behalf of VIVmag and the eec.”
“Get more VIV compliments of the eec,” said the subject line.
Opening the message revealed a fairly standard sales pitch for four free issues of the magazine.
“Extend your subscription for FREE. Just update your profile here,” it said,
Clicking through the link revealed a personal-data-capture page requiring name, address, city, state, country, and telephone phone number. The form also required the city in which the recipient was born. The personal question was to satisfy the requirements of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the form said.
For those who need it spelled out, the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ reports will determine VIV’s rate base, therefore, ad prices.
Also, the information would be enough to go to one or more of the big data providers for overlays of demographic and household-purchasing information on subscribers, allowing VIV to build more complete profiles of its readers. Ordinarily this is a completely sound and acceptable marketing strategy—that is, except for the way the list was obtained.
Moreover, one reader sent this newsletter two separate free issues of two different editions of VIV that were spammed into his inbox on two different days. So Mullen’s claim that the effort only involved one issue of the magazine is nonsense.
So let’s recap: That’s at least two issues of the magazine—one of which was sent three times—and at least one standalone prospecting e-mail spammed into the inboxes of the members of an organization ostensibly dedicated to setting standards in the e-mail marketing industry.
This is not simply a case of good intentions gone bad. This was an ongoing, purposeful, multi-spam prospecting campaign for VIV by its digital promoter Zinio, of which Mullen is chief marketing officer.
Right up top, the policy states: “The Email Experience Council is the sole owner of the information collected on our website. We do not sell, share or rent this information to third parties or partners.”
Maybe names for the VIV campaign were on loan. Either that or the messages didn’t come from VIV and, therefore, the return address information in them was faked, which is illegal under federal law. Pick one.
Oh, and let’s not forget the part where the EEC’s list isn’t remotely the right target for a women’s lifestyle magazine.
Does everybody get this now? Because judging by various blog entries last week, it seemed some people were simply chalking up to a learning experience the fact that the EEC handed over its members’ e-mail addresses to a private company—for whom the EEC’s co-chair, Mullen, just happens to be the vice president of marketing—to spam them multiple times with an irrelevant and inappropriate acquisition campaign.
Folks, this is not a teachable moment. Everybody in this industry knows not to pull the nonsense Zinio pulled in cahoots with the EEC—everyone, that is, except apparently the one organization claiming to be dedicated to pointing out sh*t everyone else should and shouldn’t do.
So, I ask again, is there anyone out there who is still unclear on what happened? Is the irony of an organization supposedly dedicated to setting standards demonstrating a complete lack of them lost on anyone? How about the irony of Mullen taking part in a panel discussion next week on privacy at the Email Insider Summit? Is that lost on anyone? If so, call me (212-204-4219, really that’s my direct dial) and I’ll be happy to spell it out even further. Though you’ll have to forgive me for the yelling. I won’t be able to help it.
The VIV spam campaign and the dishonest explanation for it has made a mockery of the EEC.
In response to a series of questions surrounding this incident submitted late last week, the EEC’s parent, the Direct Marketing Association, yesterday sent the following statement:
“DMA has a long-standing policy of high levels of ethical practice for the Association, its subsidiaries, its members, and all marketers. The DMA was not aware of the details of this particular promotion. We are in the process of reviewing the specifics of this effort and we will take appropriate action as the facts unfold as necessary.”
Not surprisingly, messages sent to this newsletter last week indicate that the EEC has seriously damaged its credibility.
“I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve unsubscribed from the EEC newsletter, and am no longer pushing my organization to join with a higher-level membership,” wrote one reader who is pretty much representative of the general tone of last week’s letter writers. “An organization dedicated to e-mail best practices should not violate the simplest of e-mail marketing best practices.”
Unless and until the DMA takes steps to make this right, the EEC has no business speaking for or to responsible e-mail marketers.