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E-mail marketing gains from threat

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Companies that provide e-mail marketing services report a surge of interest in the use of e-mail, driven largely by the economy and the anthrax scare, which have caused concern among direct marketers.

E-mail marketing, which was already growing before Sept. 11, is expected to attract even more marketers who are looking for cost-efficient, targeted, secure ways to reach users.

"I don’t think Sept. 11 necessarily changed the growth of the industry," said Ben Isaacson, executive
director of the Association for Interactive Media, New York. "One area that it did give a great kick start to is the convergence of offline and e-mail lists. Because of Sept. 11 and the anthrax scare, the multichannel
approach has started to take on greater significance for the heads of [marketing] companies."

Online meets offline

The announced merger last month of offline and online marketing company Naviant, New York, and permission-based company eDirect Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., is an example of the potential for merging offline and online data.

The merger will create an e-mail marketing powerhouse with a database of more than 60 million consumer profiles, which Naviant will tap to offer marketers targeted, opt-in e-mail opportunities.

Michael Brauser, former president and founder of eDirect, who will become CEO of the merged entity to retain the name Naviant, said the recent anthrax scare may make consumers more reluctant to open regular mail, thus positioning e-mail as a good choice for direct marketers.

Another e-mail provider, BigFoot Interactive, New York, said it has witnessed increased interest in
e-mail marketing among specific
industries, including financial services, publishers, pharmaceutical companies and automotive companies, since Sept. 11.

"[These industries] will be looking at e-mail more aggressively," said Al DiGuido, CEO of BigFoot. "They live or die over using direct mail to engage customers," he added, noting that the anthrax scare has given many direct marketers an incentive to expand their use of e-mail, including building new e-mail lists and
appending their direct mail lists with e-mail addresses.

BigFoot offers a range of interactive marketing solutions, including scouring news sources for relevant content to provide users who opt-in for e-mail newsletters.

Setting standards

DiGuido, who chairs an e-mail guideline committee established at the Direct Marketing Association’s annual meeting last month, said setting standards for appropriate collection of e-mail addresses to append direct mail lists is critical to ensuring privacy.

"E-mail gets a bad rap," he said. "We’re always on guard in terms of opt-in. Consumers and business users are sensitive about what comes into [their] mailbox."

The AIM and DMA, working together on standards for collecting e-mail addresses, are expected to release guidelines after the first of the year.

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