Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Don_t_panic“The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as “Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun To Be With.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as “a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes…”

Curiously enough, an edition of the Encyclopaedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as “a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came.””

This abridged passage from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a fine example of the comedy that can be found in the marketing world, and if you’ve read Douglas Adams you already know that he had a lot to say on the subject of marketing people. But on special occasions in the real world, comedy writes itself, and one needs look no further than a post on last week to realize that Douglas Adams, while he was a tremendously funny man, didn’t have to work too hard when writing on the subject of marketers.

Spamhaus, venerable defenders of all things spammy, is a not-for-profit organization with a very noble mission: to track spam and spammers, generate spam lists, and work with law enforcement to identify and track malware spammers worldwide. The organization’s done a lot of good, and naturally, that’s sparked the ire of spammers, who’ve targeted the organization in a number of attacks.

Spamhaus doesn’t just focus on the evil, malicious spammers, either. Sure, there are plenty of those to go around, but there’s also a wealth of marketing spammers who still don’t seem to get that their own activities are counterintuitive to their cause. In fact, we’ve seen plenty of focus on marketing wonks of late, thanks to the tireless activities of countries like Australia and the United States. Government agencies in both nations haven’t been shy about levying heavy fines on companies that exhibit antisocial behavior and contravene the respective legislations in those countries.

And as venerable as the organization is, even Spamhaus cannot help but find the comedy in last week’s post, when they point out that they were spammed by the U.S. Direct Marketing Association (DMA). “Spamming is always bad,” Spamhaus writes, “but it is just plain foolish to spam addresses at” Too true, as the DMA sent out a spam message and included Spamhaus founder Steve Linford in the message. But the DMA didn’t stop there. It spammed a lot of people, Spamhaus reports. “Given the number and diversity of the spamtraps that received this spam, we are 100% confident that the DMA also spammed a very large number of active user mailboxes.”

And it doesn’t stop there. Spamhaus “also heard from from [SIC] several prominent anti-spam researchers, who also received this same spam at their personal email addresses.”

Now, there’s stupidity and then there’s stupidity. The DMA’s tagline is “Advancing and Protecting Responsible Data-Driven Marketing,” but as with many marketers, words are just that: words. And Spamhaus calls them out, point out in its FAQ that “Unfortunately the US Direct Marketing Association wrongly advises DMA members that the sending of unsolicited bulk email (AKA spam) is an ‘acceptable marketing practice’. This extremely bad advice by the DMA has tricked many DMA members into spamming and consequently damaged the communications and reputations of companies who believed they were following correct advice.”

So should we forgive them for using the word ‘responsible,’ when they don’t seem to back it up with their actions? Probably not, because this is exactly the kind of behavior that gives truly responsible marketers a bad name. We’ve seen plenty of examples of how marketers try to circumvent spam filters, and by the very admission that they’re circumventing something meant to keep them out, we begin to understand just what they’re made of.

Regular readers of know that I’ve been quite vocal about marketing spammers, and there’s a simple reason for that: marketing spam is no different than traditional spam. And let’s be clear about the paradigm. There’s marketing email, which uses the opt-in or ‘pull’ mechanism, which means that users have explicitly asked to be contacted. There’s nothing wrong with marketing email. Marketing spam, on the other hand, is where spammers use the opt-out or ‘push’ mechanism, where contact information has been gleaned or purchased, often from a third party like a bank, credit card company, or website. In the spam model, users are subject to the same kind of harassment that occurs with illegitimate or malicious spam. Period. End of sentence.