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XPOSURE: Relentless illogical spam

XPOSURE: Relentless illogical spam

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A well-adjusted person using a functional keyboard can hit the Delete key much faster than he can walk to his mailbox and back carrying an armload of dead trees and nonbiodegradable inks and plastics, which he will use to infect the environment by tossing them out with the trash. As we all know, spam is 100 per cent biodegradable. It never hurt a tree and can be recycled with a keystroke. Yet virtually none of us go to the trouble to phone Reader's Digest and demand they stop sending bulk mail, nor write nasty letters to their upstream demanding they be put out of business immediately.

I started the previous paragraph with "well-adjusted" to make a point. I firmly believe that anyone who can be enraged to action by the receipt of an innocuous piece of advertising e-mail is a bit "off" emotionally.

Spam is a big problem only because people think it's a big problem.

E-mail advertising is here to stay. And like roadside billboards that obscure our view of the mountains, bulk postal mail that drives up landfill costs and pollutes the environment, and every other form of advertising that does NOT anger us so much, it has a downside.

Thank God companies use e-mail and buy fewer billboards. Thank God they send non-polluting bits around the Net instead of environmental poison through the mail. Get over it, I say to the torch-carrying mob. Wake up and realise it's nothing. Grow up and get over it, and move on to something that's actually important."

- Rob Cosgrove, CEO, Quantum Corp, _justifying his company's spamming with _relentless logic. Sort of.I received four messages from Cosgrove's company on Monday (one to each of my e-mail addresses) and they were classic spam: No company or sender's names, sent from a non-company mail server, and with a Yahoo reply address. But responding to the message gained me a reply that was a classic cheesy sales pitch and link to a real Web site, and from there to a telephone number, and a conversation with Cosgrove, about the above e-mail follow-up.

In our telephone conversation, Cosgrove told me that out of each batch of 50,000 e-mail messages, his company gets about 70 responses and about 30 sales. Cosgrove's company is selling remote back-up software - it backs up your machines across the Internet - as a home business! (Can you say "contingent liability"?)Cosgrove pointed out that the sell-through makes the cost of sales negligible. And he's right - it is negligible unless you consider having 49,930 people really irritated with you to have a cost.

I asked my friend Jim Sterne - my favourite marketing guru - to comment and he noted that "it is surprising just how logical the pro-spammers can sound". Sterne also pointed out that with what he calls a "scorched earth" marketing strategy like this, the damage to the brand is enormous and unrecoverable. (He also sent me an amusing exchange he had with a well-known company about spam they sent him - see www.targeting.com/iwSpam.html).

In my conversation with Cosgrove, I pointed out that if everyone started to market the way he's marketing, spam would be all there is - then we're likely to get legislation that may well be even more obnoxious than the spam. Sterne pointed out that there are 12 million businesses in the US. If each sent out just one spam to you per year, that would work out to 1,370 per hour!

I'm going to stop writing about spam - at least for a week - because it is, indeed, a losing battle. Spam is here to stay and logic has nothing to do with it. Mark Gibbs is a columnist at the Channel X _sister publication, Network World


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