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Email and the Obama Campaign

Late in the summer there were people talking about the spam coming from Senator Obama’s presidential campaign. At that time, most of the discussion was focused on the open subscription form on their website and that there were some individuals who had been fraudulently signed up and were now receiving email from the campaign.
Last week, the Senator’s campaign again became a topic of discussion among some anti-spam groups. The maintainer of one of the more respected public blocklists and members of his family received mail from Senator Obama’s presidential campaign at their personal addresses. Because the mail was unsolicited and met the qualifications for listing, the sending IP addresses were listed on the blocklist. In response, the campaign’s ESP started moving the Senator’s mail to other IP addresses, resulting in those IPs also being listed on the blocklist as well.
I talked with the blocklist maintainer and I believe that his address, and those of his family members, were added to the Senator’s mailing list as the result of an email append. All of them are registered Democrats and they all live in a battleground state.
This may have made for good campaign strategy, not being an expert I cannot comment on that. It is, however, very poor email marketing strategy.
First, the campaign decided to appropriate permission to send email. There is not ever permission associated with an email append. Just because you have a name and a street address does not mean that you have permission to send email. In very, very limited circumstances, an opt-in append (click here to continue receiving email) may be acceptable. However, that is not how appending is normally done.
There is no pretense of permission to send email. Just because someone is registered to a particular party does not mean they want to receive email from that party.
Second, when the campaign started seeing delivery problems they started sending off different IP addresses. Moving IPs around is out and out spammer behavior, no questions asked.
Now, I know this is a very hotly contested election and I know that some people believe that any method of getting the word out is good. I also expect that there may have been some positive reaction from recipients. The overall reaction, based on the IPs changing, may not have been so positive.
Do I really believe that Senator Obama is a evil and willful spammer? No, not really. But that does not change the fact that the Obama campaign seems to be sending email without the permission of the recipient and seem to be attempting to evade blocks by moving IP addresses.
From a marketing perspective, the campaign may be using email effectively and doing everything right. But from an email delivery perspective, they are getting many, many of the basics wrong and are looking like spammers in the process.
Other news and blogs that talk about spam from the Obama campaign:

3 comments

  1. Evan says

    I got “spammed” by an Obama forward-to-a-friend campaign – from an address/individual I’d never heard of.
    Now, that may just have been coincidental – a typo, let’s say – as I didn’t hear or see any other reports of the issue. But the possibility exists the forward-to-a-friend form on Obama’s site was being targeted for abuse – regardless of the initiator’s political leanings.
    As was mentioned on the list, political email campaigns in particular are prone to malicious seeding of random/trap address in an attempt to get the candidate/party’s email blocked. It’s really a wonder to me that any candidate can get away with single opt-in – let alone things like appends or list purchases – without seeing severe deliverability problems.
    In any case, it’ll be interesting to see this particular issue play out.

  2. Spamtacular | Before You Append says

    […] you even consider appending, you should read Laura’s post on it (and what happened to one major campaign that appears to have tried […]

  3. helen w haley says

    all of the campaign signs for obama/biden were stolen from our neighborhood in buda tex and it is rumors that this same event occurred in south austin. after this hoped i made a huge sign and stapled it to my fence for all to see, i would like sen.. obama to view it. i think it would edify him and his wife. HH

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