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IAB Issues First E-Mail Guidelines

Admitting that the proliferation of spam has tainted the e-mail marketing industry, the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) e-mail committee Tuesday released proposed guidelines for an e-mail ethics pledge.

In the suggested Ethical E-Mail Guarantee, IAB members are required to give advertisers and agencies a set of assurances about list sourcing and management, to assure them that their e-mail campaigns will not use unsavory tactics.

"There are some who look at e-mail marketing as the problem child of interactive advertising, and to be sure there are indeed areas of concern for us to address," said Michael Mayor, e-mail marketer NetCreations' president and the chairman of the committee. "The first step is to separate the responsible marketers from those entities who continue to abuse this rapidly growing channel."

Under the guidelines, an e-mail list provider would promise that everyone on its lists has agreed to receive messages from a third party. The provider would disclose the source of each e-mail address, also revealing how permission was obtained. A list provider would also promise that it will deliver the volume contracted and deliver only to those e-mail addresses that fit the criteria established by the client. Finally, the e-mail list provider would promise to honor all unsubscribe requests.

The guidelines, which call for a full refund if any promise is broken, would be applied at the time of the insertion order, which Mayor said would allay any fears from advertisers and agencies at the outset.

"By incorporating the [guidelines] into the ordering process, advertisers and list providers show in no uncertain terms that they are firmly supporting responsible e-mail marketing," he said.

Along with paid search, e-mail marketing has been a bright spot for the Internet advertising industry, showing robust growth over the last two years while the overall industry has faltered. According to Jupiter Research, which is owned by the parent company of this site, e-mail marketing will be worth $1.4 billion this year. Jupiter projects the market will grow to $8.3 billion in 2007.

E-mail marketers, however, have been forced to deal with the increasing amount of clutter produced by spam's ascendance. Jupiter projects spam will continue its sharp growth, with the average e-mail user receiving more than 3,900 unwanted commercial e-mails per year in 2007.

The IAB's e-mail committee, formed just six weeks ago, includes representatives from Bigfoot Interactive, Advertising.com, Edmunds.com, wk Interactive, and WashingtonPost.NewsweekInteractive.

Last week, the IAB's ad-sizes committee unveiled its proposal for a set of four standard ad sizes, which did not include the much-maligned 468 x 60 banner.