Straight Talk: DMA Names Aronowitz Head of AIM
Direct marketing veteran Michael Aronowitz was named executive director of the Association for Interactive Marketing (AIM) in late August, the Internet-focused subsidiary of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).
Aronowitz began his career with Concepts in Color, a post-production facility for direct mail catalogs and in-store circulars. In 1990, he founded his own direct mail agency, Zmicheals, which helped catalogers with graphic design. In 1998, he spun off www.saleoutlet.com, a provider of interactive marketing products for retailers such as Wal-Mart, Woolworth's and Family Dollar. In 2002, Aronowitz joined Monster Worldwide, where he was responsible for the directional interactive arm of Monster.com and Monstermoving.com.
Aronowitz succeeds Kevin Noonan, who left AIM in March, after 18 months of directing the group, to join New York-based e-mail deliverability firm Return Path. Aronowitz now pauses to reflect on spam, pending legislation and regulation, and spyware.
PB: In your estimation, what will be the single greatest challenge facing e-mail and interactive marketers in 2005?
MA: Undoubtedly, spam will continue to be the single greatest challenge facing e-mail marketersand perhaps all interactive marketers in generalnext year. However, I wouldn't be surprised if spyware [advertising supported software] emerges as a challenger to spam as the most [pressing] issue. The key for me will be gauging AIM's membership [base] to understand their concerns and learn how they legitimately use adware. AIM will help face these challenges by examining the myriad legitimate uses of software technology to more effectively target offers and deliver value to consumers.
PB: How would you define spam? While a small group of e-mail marketers initially pushed to define spam as unsolicited commercial e-mail, others insisted it should be classified as fraudulent e-mail.
MA: There is now a single national law [Can-Spam] that defines the boundary between legal and illegal e-mail.
E-mail that falls on the wrong side of that boundary is spam. The key for AIM members will be to figure out how to maximize the efficacy of their own e-mail marketing efforts within this framework. This takes into account the challenge of the continued physical nuisance of spam in consumers' inboxes. As most e-mail marketers know all too well, even if you get many layers of permission from consumers, if the message isn't timely and relevant or doesn't deliver a perceived value to the recipient, even opt-in e-mail is frequently reported to [Internet service providers] as spam. As the new executive director of AIM, I will continue to explore state-of-the-art e-mail technology, as well as best techniques, so that e-mail can deliver even more value to consumers.
PB: What measures does the direct marketing industry need to take to finally overcome the rampant spam problem? Aside from legislation, what more needs to happen?
MA: The industry needs to keep the faith and stay involved in what's going on. Stepped-up law enforcement against spammers is becoming more visible and will hopefully become a strong deterrent to spamming. Operation Slam Spam was one of the elements of a criminal sweep that was recently credited with achieving significant results against spammers. Support of the latest technologies will also be crucial. The DMA and AIM recently held e-mail sender-authentication Webinars to get members up to speed on authentication proposals such as Sender ID and DomainKeys, for example, and what [marketers] need to do to comply.
While there is still no silver bullet to stopping spam, our industry's continued strong support of a multi-pronged, anti-spam effort is very important.
PB: What was the last online appeal you responded to, and why?
MA:[An appeal from] Shoebuy.com. I used a Yahoo search to find a pair of vintage, black high-top PRO-Keds and saw an offer from Shoebuy.com and Zappos.com. Both offered free shipping in the body copy so I [looked into] both and picked Shoebuy.com because they were $15 cheaper!