We should think of the market as a commons. The universe of customers, consumers, clients, end-users, partners, prospects, suspects, targets, pigeons, chumps, marks, rubes, and suckers is shared by the universe of marketers, each of whom is competing for the attention of the market.
Every time some twit at a brand-name advertiser or agency pushes the envelope of good marketing practice, we all pay. As marketers have tried to become “edgier” they have lost track of the edge itself.
First, legitimate marketers have abused click-wrap EULA’s (end-user license agreements) to get consumers to agree to things they haven’t read. Second, Gator and Kazaa use click-wrap EULA’s to trick unwitting users into agreeing to the installation of spyware and hidden P2P client, the redirection of affiliate commissions, and delivery of unwanted advertising. Finally, the FriendGreetings virus uses the pretense of email from a friend to get you to agree to install their software and let it spam your friends and business associates.
First, the Direct Marketing Association fights a master opt-out list and confirmed opt-in for commercial email lists. Then, Yahoo, eBay, and others set your account to opt-in by default. Finally, spammers pretend to have your opt-in and insist that you reply to their fake addresses to opt of their mailing lists.
The DMA’s renunciation of responsibility for spam will result in the destruction of email as a marketing medium, if not the destruction of email itself.
Until big Internet marketers agree to a binding, concrete, bright-line code of conduct, they will continue to provide unintended cover to the destruction of the marketing commons.