Rotten Apple Marketing

Everyone seems to hate spam — except Internet marketers. Admit it, we love email marketing because it’s cheap and easy. In fact, it’s so cheap and easy that Internet marketers are happy with a response rate of less than one percent. So, who cares about the ninety-nine percent who don’t respond?

Spam is not an Internet problem, it’s a marketing problem. And marketers are frantically scrambling to make their marketing efforts more effective by better targeting the recipients. How? By monitoring Internet use. Monitoring and measuring Internet use has become a war unto itself.

How do you feel about adware, also referred to by some as spyware? The terms refer to computer programs and scripts that work behind the scenes on your computer to keep track of various things you do, ostensibly to send you ads that will be of interest to you.

Apparently, the solution to spam is spying. Interesting.

I have spent the last two weeks trying to remove an adware program that has attached itself to my computer system and provides a bevy of Internet Explorer (IE) pop up advertisements, even when IE is not open. The script opens an IE window and violates my cyber space with an ad I don’t want. I don’t care what it’s advertising, I don’t want it. Shouldn’t the advertisers pay me to use my cyber space, my pixels, my bandwidth, and my electricity for their purposes?

How did it that program get on my computer? I do have teenagers, but as irresponsible as they may be, they are not the source of the problem. They are only easily exploitable. Nor is the Internet the problem. It is just a leveraging tool. The real problem is a marketing mentality, an attitude, a worldview.

Are you aware that there is a worldview war that is raging just below the surface of your computer’s system software. John Borland, writing for, calls it A Secret War. And it is being waged by marketers against the public.

It is of interest to marketers because it pits marketers and the companies they represent against the public, against potential customers. It is no exaggeration to say that advertising and marketing have poor reputations in our society. Most people don’t like being bombarded by advertisements, and a growing number don’t like the kinds of ads they are seeing, or the kinds of marketing schemes they are the targets of. Witness the phenomenal growth of eMail spam filters and pop up ad blocking software.

The latest entry into the fray is AdSubtract, a program that “culls out links that appear because of advertisement agreements between the organization and the search engine company,” according to Paul Roberts, IDG NewsService, writing for InfoWorld. The thing to notice is the passion with which people dislike what is happening with ads.

Our computers have become the battlefield between creative marketers who are financially driven to find ever new and creative ways to serve up advertisements, and a growing backlash of consumers who feel like their rights are being violated through surreptitious, sneaky and often downright dishonest (though not illegal) marketing methods that spy on them in order to serve up content appropriate ads. Leading the pack with the most creative of such programs are the get-rich-quick spammers and porn shops.

What should be of note to the legitimate advertising and marketing community is the public reaction that lumps all advertisers and marketers into the same barrel. In addition, we find that more and more legitimate advertisers and marketers are using the methods of spammers and porn shops because they are so creative and cutting-edge. They are very creative!

Thus, the rot of the bad apples quickly spreads through the whole barrel through emulation.

Right or wrong, good or bad — it’s happening! And the result inevitably produces antagonism between marketers and consumers. It is wasting precious time as programmers from each camp work furiously against the other. It wastes precious band width and, therefore, money as the glut of unwanted bits, bytes and pixels are set in motion.

In addition, it makes consumers more resistant to advertising, which in turn makes advertising and marketing more difficult — and again more costly. And at the same time, less effective. Because people don’t like the methodology, they train themselves to block ads out of their awareness. The cycle contributes to a coarsening of society that is everywhere evident as dollar driven marketers push the envelope for eyeballs.

The only winners appear to be the few companies who benefit from receiving minuscule response rates, but make up for it by broadcasting a gazillion impressions. By and large we will find such companies to be small shops who have nothing to lose from such tactics — get-rich-quickers and porn shops (and those who share their values).

Nonetheless, the entire advertising and marketing community is being tarred by the same brush. Spam is a problem that belongs to the advertising and marketing community. It is the fruit of a mindset cultivated by the marketing gurus who invented viral marketing, and represents the pinnacle of one kind of marketing success. The entire marketing paradigm needs to be rethought, repositioned and rebranded.

If we can’t control it from within, then the government will step in. And that will not be good news for anyone, except those who collect taxes. Do we really want government approved advertising?

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