Blue chips, black arts and a red-letter day

First the bad news: Dave Brunswick’s article opposite shows the sordid reality behind spam. His dogged determination to make supposedly blue-chip, legitimate marketing companies see the error of their ways is to be congratulated. Brunswick’s sleuthing has revealed the complete lack of control that even the biggest companies have over spam. By handing responsibility for their precious customer base to third parties, these blue-chip businesses are opening the doors to the spam sharks.

The UK’s first “spam summit”, held at the beginning of July, was a useful first step in recognising the scale of the problem. Derek Wyatt, the Labour MP who organised the event and who heads the all-party Internet Group, says he is now developing recommendations to the Government for “the strongest legislation against spam”. His group has created a website – endspam.org.uk – intended as a rallying point for concerned individuals.

However, many in the industry are concerned at the prospect of regulatory action. E-Relationship Marketing chief executive Mike Williams says: “Legitimate e-mail marketing and spam are worlds apart, but they are repeatedly tarred with the same brush by the anti-spam brigade. The debate is rife with misinformation and propaganda. Those in influential positions must set the record straight.”

I hope Williams will agree, after reading Brunswick’s article, that much of the misinformation is coming from companies which should know better. Wittingly or unwittingly, they are keeping the spam sharks well fed. The first thing they must do is take much more care over whom they entrust their customer database to.

Now the good news: the IMRG’s 24×7 Internet Shopping Day appears to have been a huge success. Held, of course, on July 24, the PR stunt was designed to emphasise the 24/7 nature of e-commerce. The event’s website, 24×7.imrg.org, attracted “well over 1 million” visitors.

Participating merchants reported their “most successful day ever”: many doubled turnover while some experienced “tenfold” sales increases. The day was “better than Christmas,” says Voodooshoes.com director Paul Bond.

Real-time internet traffic analyst Hitwise reports that traffic to shopping sites grew by four per cent on the day, with retail sites taking 7.4 per cent of all Net traffic.

Companies that ran promotions enjoyed a “staggering” increase in hits. Hitwise reports that traffic to electrical retailer EmpireDirect.co.uk doubled, beating both Dixons and Currys. Marks & Spencer, which offered customers the chance to win a &£1,000 shopping spree on its site, experienced a 96 per cent increase in traffic.

Robert Dwek, editor dwek@journalist.co.uk

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