It's not enough that consumers complain that spam continually fills their e-mail boxes. It should also be a serious concern for legitimate marketers, said the top executive of an e-mail advertising company.
"What's emerging is that e-mail advertising from Disney, for instance, is landing in e-mail boxes right next to graphic pornographic ads," said Ian Oxman, president of ChooseYourMail.com, a Chicago opt-in e-mail marketing company that delivers targeted e-mail ads to customers who request them.
Mr. Oxman is an activist working to pressure Congress to pass anti-spam legislation.
"You don't see Disney advertising in Playboy magazine, but their direct e-mail shows up next to porn. And I believe that this is having a negative effect on how the online public perceives spam," he said.
PORN, GET-RICH-QUICK SCHEMES
ChooseYourMail operates the Spam Recycling Center, which encourages consumers to ship spam messages to them. In turn, these messages are collected and forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission.
In a recent two-month period, the center logged 198,601 pieces of spam. An analysis of 98,948 randomly selected spam messages from that period this summer showed almost one-third were solicitations for pornographic sites. Nearly as many were for get-rich-quick schemes; nearly one-quarter were classified as product solicitations, for items such as earning college diplomas and work-at-home schemes; and nearly 10% were for weight-loss, Viagra and other health remedies.
What makes matters worse, Mr. Oxman said, is that 8.9% of those messages contained a reference to proposed federal legislation, which never passed, that seems to place a veneer of legitimacy on the spam.
"What this shows is that even bad legislation that hasn't been approved can have a negative effect," he said.
ERODING CONSUMER TRUST
"What this seems to do is whittle away at the effectiveness of what is a legitimate advertising medium, e-mail," he said. "People are spending a lot of money and effort to keep their children from finding porn online, but with spam, porn is finding them. We think that this has to have a detrimental effect on the trust that consumers have in using the Net as a shopping tool."
Copyright September 1999, Crain Communications Inc.