Archive for January 21st, 2009
Not so long ago, a number of people fell for a clever prank. An email did the rounds, promising its forwarders the opportunity to win an Apple iPhone along with the launch of AirTel. Of course, everyone wants an iPhone, so Thomas, Richard and Harold’s local counterparts were sending out the email with some obscure gmail account on copy. I managed to dig out the one I got:
AirTell Launch in Sri Lanka
Date: 13 th November 2008
Venue & Time : To be notified via public media.
As part of our launch, we have decided to give away THREE Apple iPhones and TWO Life Time Connections to FIVE lucky winners.
These prizes will be give away as part of our promotional campaign and winners will be unanimously selected based on the most number of times this mail has been forwarded.
What will you have to do ?
To be eligible to win the above mentioned prizes, all you are required to do is to forward this mail to as many people as you can and make sure you copy it firstname.lastname@example.org . The winner will be selected on the 9 th of November 2008, and details on how to claim the prize will be notified via email.
.Apple iPhone is a registered product of Apple Inc.
Best Regards Sanjaya Weerakkody
Senior Public Relations Manager
AirTell Sri Lanka
I’m not even sure that there is such a person as Mr. Weerakkody, or even if his name was added later by someone editing the email with the intention of forwarding it.
The general response to the email was very simple – at least 95% (a guesstimate of mine) of the people who got that email forwarded it to their friends and everyone else in their address book. Not many stopped to consider the validity of the offer or even wonder why, when it’d cost no more than sixty dollars (on average) to own a domain and email address, a massive company like AirTel would have to resort to using Gmail accounts. That’s where the true genius of the email lay = the company being launched was “AirTell”, so in any case no one could really blame the real AirTel if no one won or something unethical was going on.
I wrote back to some of the people who forwarded this email to me and kept everyone else on copy when I pointed these things out. Not everyone felt good after seeing the issues I pointed out and there was an initial period of unpleasantness until I’d explained my intentions in using the “Reply-to-all” function. All I was trying to do was reduce the spread of false information.
However, it’s been no big surprise that as of late my office email address will report at least one email advertisement per week in the Junk email folder. This ad will have the unsubscribe address as “RemoveAds@gmail.com” which leads me to suspect that whoever sent out the initial email has stepped out into the world of Email Marketing and is probably charging someone for the facility to intrude on my mailbox with their message.
As this is not the first time I’ve had my email address shared with a third party without my knowledge, I’m thinking that Email Marketing seems to follow a process like this;
- Create Gmail or similar disposable account. Let’s call it the deposit account (DA).
- Compile email with details of fake competition. This should ideally play on the news of an upcoming event or on basic greed.
- Send out the email, asking people to keep the DA on copy.
- Collect the email addresses that flow into the DA and compile a “comprehensive database of email contacts” with which you can “deliver advertisements to the right crowd” or some similar market-speak.
- Charge people for the Email Marketing campaign and earn money while doing so.
The way I see it, this kind of marketing is bad for both the advertiser and the person doing the mail address harvesting.
Why it’s bad for the advertiser
Pretty simple really – I’m (in this case the user/recipient of the email) being interrupted/having my privacy intruded by someone without my permission. I’m also probably not interested in what the advertisement is all about, so that’s money wasted. Online, most people are unlikely to welcome advertisements that are forced on them. When it tends to land in their inbox, it’s pretty likely going to end up being deleted without even being read.
Why it’s bad for the Address Harvester
For starters, you’re not quite as anonymous as you think you are. If I call up the advertiser and casually ask about who he’s paying in order to bother me, I’d be able to find you. Then I can easily tell the world about how you resort to unethical practices in order to earn money… not a pleasant situation. A bit of the proverbial dung drop in the milk pail, I think. Add to this the possible legal issues – I’m not sure if there’s much legal recourse for fake advertising victims, but if the party has enough clout I’d not want to be on the receiving end…
So called for its “opt-in” approach to marketing of products and services, Permission Marketing is a concept that needs to be popularised in Sri Lanka. Given that many people still don’t have proper internet access, other internet based marketing methods might not have the same user access as email; many companies will give their employees email, but not internet access. When this is the case, building a sense of trust and respect from the target market is what will set the email marketer apart from the rest of the crowd, IMHO. There’s no point in setting out to make money when you are sabotaging your chances of continuing to make money.