Straight Talk: Emily HackettAt the Helm of Preserving E-commerce
Last December, Emily Hackett, then director of state policy issues for the Internet Alliance (IA), a subsidiary of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), was promoted to executive director. At the Alliance, Hackett is
responsible for tracking and influencing legislation affecting the Internet, information technology and electronic commerce in the United States. Previously, she served in key government positions at the White House, Office of Management and Budget and the Federal Trade Commission. She now pauses to reflect on the Can Spam Act, Internet tax and the ever-unpredictable state of consumer confidence.
PB: What are some challenges the Internet Alliance faces in 2004?
EH: The IA's mission is to promote consumer trust in the Internet so it can reach its potential as the premier marketing medium in this century. Several states continue to want to regulate e-commerce despite the widely
accepted reality that the Internet has created an international marketplace beyond the reach of any one state. State lawmakers will continue to try and regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Web sites, commercial e-mail, online auctions and related issues. Despite passage of the federal Can Spam Act, state lawmakers are continuing to introduce spam bills, many with provisions that would, in fact, be pre-empted by the federal law. So we still have a huge education job ahead of us in the states.
PB: What do you find to be the most important elements of a successful e-mail campaign?
EH: Transparency is the key from the policy perspective. Almost always, if you clearly state what you're doing, respect the customer, and do what you say you're doing, you will have a successful campaign and act within the parameters of the current law.
PB: How has anti-spam legislation changed the way marketers view e-mail marketing?
EH: From the number of calls, briefings and conversations that are going on all over Washington, [D.C.], it's clear reputable marketers are doing everything possible to comply with the new law. If marketers don't comply with the provisions of Can Spam, they will be subject to substantial penalties. All marketers must provide is a clear ability for consumers to stop receiving more e-mail from the marketer. E-mail from marketers must have a valid address. They must delete consumers who ask to be removed from their lists and comply with a number of other procedures.
PB: How has it changed the way consumers view e-mail marketing?
EH: The Can Spam Act is only one in a series of steps that has been taken to increase consumers' confidence in e-mail. It simply provides a road map for marketers to legally communicate with consumers. We all say there is no silver bullet. Consumers are flocking to the Internet marketplace. Consumer confidence needs to be nurtured, and Can Spam puts us on that path.
PB: Do you think the proposed tax on all e-mails will benefit or harm legitimate e-mail marketing?
EH: There is no proposal to tax all e-mails. The taxes that are being considered in the states include: application of use taxes to Internet sales and Internet access taxes. Until this year there was a federal moratorium on access taxes. That moratorium expired last fall. Cash-poor states are expected to look at Internet taxes as a way to help balance their budgets. This will be a perennial issue in the states, even though it is IA's belief that estimates of the "pot of gold" awaiting them have been, at best, wildly overstated.
PB: What is one thing you would recommend to e-marketers during this challenging time?
EH: Figure out what the law says and stay on the right side of it. Don't push the envelope. The regulatory environment is in a state of flux.
PB: What was the last piece of direct mail or commercial e-mail you responded to?
EH: I just responded to a pop-under ad. It offered a variety of graphics for my Outlook program. It caught my eye and amused me.