|A RECENT ARTICLE IN BUSINESS WEEK BEMOANED how boring marketing emails from major advertisers have become. The category is so polluted with spam about porn sites, miracle golf balls, discount Viagra and multi-level marketing opportunities, and people have gotten so irritated as a result, that big brands feel like the main thing their email has to do isnt grab attention or sell productits beg forgiveness for being.
The result is the stifling of a once- promising new advertising medium, which could have set new standards for personalization and effectivenessand consumer acceptance. But I have a solution: tax it.
Bear with me here. What makes spam possible is simply that its free. You buy a CD-ROM with 5 million addresses on it (only 3 million of which are already out of date), and send the exact same thing to every last one of them. Get a .0001% response and it pays out, so the things that normally restrain junk mailerspaper and postage costs, the fear of trashing a brand imagejust dont apply.
A small tax on email (say, a penny per address sent to) wouldnt affect the average person much; you probably pay more than that for each local call you make, and I bet you never even noticed. But a spammer suddenly looking at a tax bill of $50,000 would instantly have to become at least as selective as, say, First USA in who he mails to. Hed have to learn a thing or two about targeting, and good advertising, and how to be a real marketerinstead of a pest.
So no more communication without taxation! After all, short of government intervention theres only one hope for the medium: that mainstream brands and agencies actually start creating emails exciting and daring enough that people want to open themand dont even consider them in the same category as spam.