Why the current opt-in e-mail model won’t work

Opt-in e-mail. You get to select from a wide range of lists, in specific-interest categories, and you're assured that "100% of the people on these lists have asked to receive targeted e-mail messages from mailers like you."...

Opt-in e-mail. You get to select from a wide range of lists, in specific-interest categories, and you’re assured that "100% of the people on these lists have asked to receive targeted e-mail messages from mailers like you."

It sounds great. But is it?

Turns out there are three major problems – and a bunch of minor ones – with the way some current opt-in e-mail list managers are operating.

The first is that when opt-in e-mail addresses are sold or rented there is a "disconnect" between where consumers left their addresses and the third-party marketer who ultimately sends them an e-mail.

Here’s an example – you’re surfing on a financial services site that invites you to leave your e-mail behind to receive more targeted information. Sounds reasonable, so you leave your address. Two weeks later, you receive e-mails from a deluge of third-party financial services marketers with whom you have absolutely no relationship. By this time, you’ve forgotten with which company you originally left your e-mail, so you’re convinced you’re being spammed – even though you "opted-in."

Most opt-in e-mail marketers would tell you there’s no difference between this and direct mail. But there is. For the most part, direct mail is not so "in-your-face". And the Web culture thing – you know, "If I want it I’ll go get it" – is ingrained and not likely to change.

The second major problem lies with "tag-along prospecting". That’s where you receive an e-newsletter that you have asked for and at the bottom of the newsletter are a bunch of related Web sites and a few lines of text. Neat. But the point of your signing up for the e-mail newsletter in the first place was to receive the newsletter. Period. You may or may not make time to visit the related Web sites – that is, if you make it to the bottom of the newsletter in the first place.

When marketers prospect via e-mail, they want their message to be front and centre (unless they’re placing banner ads to build some name recognition). Ride-alongs have a place, but they tend to generate very low response.

The third major problem with the way opt-in e-mail programs are being run today is that the marketer’s promotional messages are not being vetted by anybody who cares about the offline relationship with the recipients. The reason why the direct mail list rental business has remained credible for so long is because the owners of the lists have a genuine relationship with the people on their lists. The publishers of Canadian Quilting Magazine are not going to allow any direct mail to reach their readers unless that mail is of interest to their readers. List managers vet mailers by reviewing sample mail pieces and the final decision always rests with the list owner.

The companies that are assembling opt-in e-mail lists are doing so for the sole purpose of selling the names to make money. They may not care what kind of message is being sent. Oh, some will take the high road and tell you that they give their "members" opportunities to unsubscribe at any time. But at the same time, they’ll rope people in to leaving their e-mail addresses by offering them free stuff. The free stuff usually means visiting another Web site, where the person, of course, needs to leave their name, address and e-mail.

All this ranting doesn’t mean that opt-in e-mail is not a good thing. In fact, it can be a great thing if it’s done properly.

So what’s the formula for success? Easy. The formula for success is to build on the already successful list-marketing model.

Picture this. You subscribe to Canadian Quilting Magazine. As part of your communication with the magazine you reveal your e-mail address and you tell them it is OK to communicate with you in this way.

Now, if you were to suddenly get e-mails from quilting-related marketers you didn’t know, you might be a bit miffed and assume you were being spammed (remember the in-your-face, Web culture thing?)

However, if Canadian Quilting Magazine were to send you an e-mail that specifically pointed you toward a Web page and told you the editors thought you might be interested in what the site had to offer – that’s a different story. Here’s why: Your relationship with the magazine has not been compromised.

So, is everybody happy? Let’s review the players.

The client submits their Web page URL to the e-mail list manager who vets it through the list owner. If approved, the client gets their Web page endorsed by the list owner. Yup, the client is happy because their message is being delivered to people who have shown a true affinity for the category.

The e-mail list owner approves only those Web pages that would potentially be of interest to their most important asset – their customers. Plus they can earn revenue for delivering a targeted message. Yup, they’re happy too.

The e-mail recipient receives targeted information from the same company to which he or she has given permission to send e-mails. The recipient also receives an opportunity to opt out of receiving any further recommendations. So yeah, they’re happy too.

The key to ensuring the success of e-mail prospecting is to be completely overt. No hiding behind surveys and contests. No piggybacking on newsletters. If current e-mail marketing practices continue, consumers are going to rebel. And don’t forget – the customer is in control. Changing an e-mail address is as easy as changing your mind.

Don Lange is senior vice-president of the Cornerstone Group of Companies. Cornerstone is one of Canada’s leading suppliers of direct response goods and services. Cornerstone recently announced the launch of Cornerstone Web Media dedicated to prospecting on the Internet and opt-in e-mail list management.

Also in this report:

- The next generation of Net tools: Permission-based e-mail, online behaviour profiling, customized content delivery on the rise p.D12

- System links agents, data warehouse: Pivotal combines technologies required to build successful e-relationships p.D17

- Direct Tech p.D18

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.