On hearing that online sales house 24/7 had launched an e-mail
division in the UK, I immediately dug out a rant I once wrote blasting
The column in question was written in New York, where our inboxes were
frequently flooded with unsolicited e-mail ads for mosquito-repelling
aftershave or folk gigs in North Dakota.
But with media owners over here quoting clickthrough rates as high as 18
per cent, insisting that e-mail is the next big thing, and (yawn)
predicting it will hasten the demise of the banner, I thought I should
canvass the buyers and planners before writing a similarly scathing
Mocking my scepticism, every planner or buyer I spoke to claimed e-mail
advertising would live up to the bullish billing it has received from
media owners and sales houses.
’Whenever anything is described as the next big thing you have to be
careful,’ said John Owen of Motive, the agency whose Flat Eric e-mail
campaign gained plaudits last year. ’But when it’s done well, it can be
incredibly effective. The Flat Eric clip was sent to just 150 people and
it became a cult.’
Jamie Estrin at online planning and buying agency Profero was similarly
confused about my concerns. ’Media owners that offer e-mail publication
advertising will fail if they can’t deliver the response, so anyone
sending unrequested e-mails or spamming people will die quickly.’
BMP Interactive’s Jason Goodman chorused: ’Permissioned data is your
lifeblood in this game, and the companies using the medium understand
that. There’s no point targeting people who don’t want your information
- anyone doing that is going to damage their brand.’
And so it went on, with everyone I spoke to praising the responsiveness
and potential of the e-mail ad and stressing its incredible
cost-effectiveness for clients. There were few cautionary words.
Their confidence was so at odds with my experience of spammy e-mails in
the US I can only assume the medium has moved on since I was there, and
that we stand to benefit from America’s mistakes. It is also possible
that UK media owners, buyers, planners and consumers are more discerning
than the Yanks.
Either that or this is a case of people talking up a medium that is in
danger of becoming the bane our online lives, with unrequested e-mails
clogging up company networks. If this happens, the clickthrough rates
will plummet as people’s immunity to this potentially intrusive form of
It is down to the media sales teams to limit the opportunities for
e-mail advertising, ensure it is targeted carefully and used only when
it is requested.