NetCreations Dives Into Append

NetCreations is the latest major player in the e-mail list management business to explore the controversial practice of “append.”

The New York-based list manager, which has made a name for itself by concentrating on building double-opt-in lists, said it will now work with a sibling firm to help direct mail marketers send e-mail to consumers listed in their offline database.

Through its new “Append and Send” feature, NetCreations’ PostMasterDirect service will team with ICOM, the offline database marketing subsidiary of SEAT Pagine Gialle, which purchased both firms last year.

ICOM, based in Toronto, will match NetCreations’ addresses to profiles in its clients’ databases. PostMasterDirect will then send e-mail creative appropriate to the opt-in preferences specified by list members.

The practice of appending online addresses to offline profiles has come under fire by consumer advocates, who charge that just because a consumer has opted-in to receive marketing messages in one channel doesn’t mean they’ve agreed to all channels.

Yet as marketers express growing interest in linking their offline and online marketing activities, many see it as only natural to explore ways of enhancing customer profiles with online data. For some, appending represents one of the quickest ways to add e-mail addresses to the information they’ve collected on customers or perspectives.

Earlier this year, rival e-mail list manager and mailer unveiled its own append service. Like NetCreations’ new service, Chicago-based Yesmail said it only delivers offers from offline clients to consumers who have consented to receive e-mail from third parties. The firm also said it sends a notification to users whose addresses are about to be added to offline profiles, allowing them to opt-out of the process.

Unlike rival offerings, however, ICOM’s clients never receive NetCreations e-mail addresses for permanent use. According to NetCreations President Michael Mayor, this ensures that the append process doesn’t result in e-mail profiles that can be abused and traded by marketers.

“With append, it really is a bad thing to transfer permission,” Mayor said. “To say that since I have it, I can take your postal file, match it against mine, and send you a copy of the matches … I think that creates spam. You do that times 50, times 500, you’ve got a serious unsolicited e-mail problem. Those people did not ask to hear from you.”

NetCreations plans to deliver e-mail not only to established customers, but also consumers who are prospective buyers — which Yesmail has said it won’t do, saying the practice treads on recipients’ privacy. But Mayor said his firm’s process of matching offers to recipients’ preferences would keep appended campaigns relevant to consumers, and wouldn’t be viewed as unwanted mail.

In any event, the development serves to strengthen and link the two marketing divisions of SEAT Pagine Gialle, a direct marketer and yellow pages publishing giant based in Italy. When SPG acquired ICOM a year ago, executives hinted at plans to integrate its services with SPG’s online activities — which in the U.S. chiefly involves NetCreations.

The service also could prove a boon for NetCreations, which can tap into ICOM’s big-name client base. Clients include Procter & Gamble, Unilever , AT&T and General Motors .

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