Pushing online boundaries

By Owen Hembry

Anti-spam legislation expected early next year has a new business partnership treading carefully as it pushes the boundaries of online marketing.

The partnership, called eAtlantis, has been signed between international marketing company Atlantis and online offers and rewards website SmileCity.

Atlantis sales and marketing director Tony Bozzard said the deal gave Atlantis access to SmileCity's 75,000 members for a range of marketing campaigns that could be worth $500,000 in the first year.

SmileCity members opt in to take part in games, surveys and receive emails containing links to online marketing and offers.

In return, they receive points that can be redeemed for cash, used for charitable donations or online shopping.

"Why it is different is that many organisations have large email databases but under the current privacy law and marketing industry code of practice, and the very difficult area surrounding spamming, they cannot share these email lists with any other organisation," Bozzard said.

"There's a huge untapped demand from marketers and advertisers for permission and prospect emails."

Bozzard said about 25 per cent of email receivers normally clicked on marketing links in campaigns that cost about 70 per cent less than other marketing methods.

SmileCity has a broad demographic, with more female members than male, almost 9000 members over 55 and a further 5000 under 18.

Atlantis operates a double opt-in approach whereby users are reminded on the first email they have opted in and can opt out of receiving emails at any time.

Bozzard said SmileCity users under 18 must have permission from a parent or guardian but the company relied on people being truthful about their age.

"It's up to parents to supervise what sites their children are using and what they're signing up to."

Atlantis took its responsibility seriously and if it found a child did not have permission to receive its messages, they would be deleted from the database, he said.

"Marketers will come to us and ask us to send out information. We will always look at the copy; if it's deemed to be inappropriate then it will not be sent. It's not a medium that's a free-for-all."

Users under 18 could receive phone, music and movie offers with an R13 rating and appropriate warnings.

The director of internet safety group Netsafe, Liz Butterfield, said internet users needed to be cautious when providing personal information.

And websites needed to be particularly careful when collecting information from children.

Butterfield said there was one message everyone should heed when using the internet.

"Just be sceptical about everything and everyone you encounter online and question 'why am I being asked to do this, is this in my best interest and is this what I want'?"

InternetNZ councillor David Harris, the author of a spam white paper for the internet governance body, said single opt-in was generally adequate protection from spam but double opt-in should be encouraged as best industry practice when greater security was needed.

The approaching Unsolicited Electronic Messages Bill is likely to propose a single opt-in rule.

Harris' definition of double opt-in would involve consumers completing an opt-in application form following an initial inquiry.

But he said the compliance cost to the industry of a legislated double opt-in approach would be enormous and unnecessary.

"The general experience of the industry is that malicious subscription is not a big problem," Harris said.

Marketing Association chief executive Keith Norris said the eAtlantis deal represented a new avenue for direct marketing and was a "very interesting development".

With your permission

* The Atlantis and SmileCity partnership will see SmileCity members receiving email marketing offers from third parties.
* The venture gives marketers access to SmileCity's 5000 members aged under 18.
* Atlantis says it will be careful to comply with the industry's code of practice and the Government's proposed anti-spam legislation.
* An internet safety group says internet users need to be careful about parting with personal information online.

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