I'm hearing a lot of unhappy stories from media buyers renting b2c email lists these days. Common grumblings include:
- List owners or brokers who lie about how many names they are renting you. Say you decide to run a test of 100k names. The broker tells you he/she sent your campaign to 100k when he/she actually sent it to 500k or more. You're innocently thrilled with the % results, and agree to roll out to a much larger order -- often millions of names -- and pay cash up front. Then surprise, surprise, your response rate plummets beyond the boundaries of reason.
- List owners or brokers who refuse to offer services such as an a/b split, suppression of previously run names, or suppression against a marketer's house file. These services are a requirement for doing business selling postal mail lists, but rarely seen in email, even though smart direct response marketers demand them.
- List owners or brokers who try to dictate the creative the client can run with them, even if the offer is appropriate for the list, non-competitive and legal. One agency media buyer just called me to rant, "My client's repeatedly tested text versus HTML, and for him text works much better. Now this VP at [well known list brokerage] is dictating we have to run in HTML or she won't take our order!"
- Clients who "turn & burn" by renting up to 10 million names at a shot for $1-2 CPM. The list owner still makes a fat profit because the list cost them little to build in a not-overly-permission-based manner, so their only real cost is a few cents per name to send the email. The marketer is happy because at CPMs this low, their response rate can be .0002% and still make the campaign profitable.
Why then should anyone care? Burn. The theory is that email names are getting burned out by an overload of this email, so folks are less likely to respond to anything. Which could hurt everyone. Also, spam cries rise to the heavens, where legislative and/or ISP "angels" can hear and may act on them in ways that could hurt regular permission-based marketers too. A media buyer who places orders in the millions at low prices for clients every day told me over dinner Monday night, "There's a six month window open for this. After that people like SpamCop will shut this activity down."
[Note: A high-ranking staffer at a fairly well-known email ad network, sent in this response to the Blog above: "I thought the part above it about the guy and his "window of six months" was funny. I've spoken pretty candidly with a lot of these people, and they all know the bubble will burst. They don't care, because they'll have made their millions and will just re-enter legitimately (not that what they're doing is technically illegal, but it's certainly in a grey area).
Think about it -- it's like a check floating scheme. They start with X amount of capital (as opposed to a bad check), but it's a game against the clock - several games against several clocks. Keep feeding co-reg in one end fast enough to continue growing at a rate quicker than the unsubscribe rate, while pounding the list unmercifully until AOL bans it; move the names over to the other host (often re-supplying the new list with it's pre-host unsubscribes) and start over."
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