The DMA: Email marketing or spam?


A few weeks ago, I signed up for a webinar from the DMA. As is my normal process I used a tagged address. I don’t remember any notification that I would be signing up for mail, and I generally do look for those kinds of things. I also know a lot of webinars are used to drive sales processes and I prefer not to waste sales time if I’m not actually looking to purchase.
In recent weeks I have gotten an ongoing stream of marketing messages from the DMA. I’ve tried to opt-out, but the DMA don’t actually want me to opt-out. Each marketing message is a different type of message from a different list. Each list must be opted out of individually.
First it was Conferences, then it was Education, then it was Awards, then Events. I’m trying to figure out what’s next and how many more times the DMA is going to get to spam me before I just turn that address into a spam trap.
And before you tell me that I can’t make an address a spam trap, think about that a little bit. I never opted this mail in to receive anything but the webinar confirmation. I’ve dutifully opted out each and every time the DMA has mailed me. I’ve even tried to opt-out of all mail. Unfortunately, the DMA has placed the “opt-out of all mail” behind a registration wall, one I cannot get to as I do not have (or want) a DMA account.
The DMA is sending me mail I did not request and do not want. They have made it impossible for me to determine how much mail I will get. They have made it difficult for me to opt-out of all their mail.
This is an example of bad email marketing. I’m sure that the DMA will tell me this is all permission based email. I disagree. This is an example of the DMA taking permission. This is not an example of a sender asking for permission. I didn’t give permission to be added to all these DMA lists, and I have no way to actually revoke the permission that they took from me.
I signed up for a second webinar with this email address, one related to CASL. The irony is that the DMA’s behavior here is a violation of a number of points of CASL. First, there was no clear opt-in notice on the website. Second, CASL requires parity between opt-in and opt-out. If I opt-in once then I should be able to opt-out once. CASL puts an end to this opt-in once, opt-out dozens of times process.
I wish I could say I was disappointed in the DMA. But I’m barely surprised. Their track record is poor and they have typically fallen on the side of “I have consent until you force me to acknowledge that I don’t.” In this case, the DMA is demonstrating that quite clearly. They will keep spamming and spamming and spamming. I have no doubt were I to actually register an account, they would continue to spam me with “account notifications” that I was unable to opt-out of because they are transactional, membership messages.

About the author


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • I seem to be on the same endless set of lists, and entirely agree. This is as egregious an example of BMS as I’ve seen for a long time.
    (That’s Bad Marketer Syndrome, the inability to imagine that everyone in the world isn’t dying to hear from you.)

  • Hello Laura. I’m very sorry this happened to you, and I have officially removed your address – although it takes our system 24 hours to refresh, so you may get another message if it was already in process of being sent.
    Separately, please know this is not the experience we want for our members and event attendees. We do take this seriously. I appreciate your calling it out and we already doing a new audit of our practices to make sure we are providing clear notice and following not only the letter of the law, but the spirit of the permission grant.
    We are already in process of moving to a new CRM/database solution that will give our members and subscribers a much more open and easy preference experience. We can’t wait to launch it, as our current process is clunky (as you found out).
    Again, please accept my apologies for the poor experience.
    Stephanie Miller
    SVP, Communications
    @stephanieSAM or smiller AT the-dma DOT org

  • That is quite a horrid CRM system you have there given it can’t send welcome messages, can’t manage opt-outs from multiple lists and stops you from putting opt-in checkboxes on your Webinar signup pages.

  • Laura,
    Ideal unsub process should be a link with preference center to unsub from a specific list? All list? or check select boxes we want to be on a specific list (not pre-checked boxes either).

  • At this point I’d be satisfied with some idea of how many lists the DMA added me to. I’ve received 2 more messages (DMA Information, which I thought I unsubscribed from before) and DMA Research, since I made the original post. One of them was outside the 24 hours, but I’m going to assume they were already in the process of being sent.
    Given I didn’t knowingly subscribe, what I’d really like to see is “unsubscribe from all DMA emails.” All I want is for them to stop mailing me. But they have made it impossible for me to communicate that request to them.

  • Stephanie, what you have done is listwashed Laura.
    Listwashing is what spammers do when they get caught by a clued receiver, which would likely be anyone who reads this blog on email. Laura did what those of us who deal with email do, post it publicly. This should have embarrassed your organization.
    Just own up to the fact that you are using invalid practices which are illegal in some cases.
    You should clean up your act. You really should.

  • What’s interesting is that DMA should be a beacon of best practices as an example to their members, subscribers and event attendees.
    I don’t find blaming the CRM tool a particularly meaningful response. It smacks of “the dog ate my homework”.

  • Should I be nervous I have to include my email address to post? 😉
    “Listwashed.” Great term Steevo. Been in email marketing for over a decade and never heard it, but I will be using it from now on. I had the same thing happen with another leading email industry publication. Every time they created a new list (for new newsletters on new topics) they added me without my consent. I wrote a complaint to the sponsoring organization that happened to be the sending ESP. The response? That I was off for not appreciating the opportunity they were giving me. That most recipients appreciated being added without having to subscribe to something new. Color me flabbergasted!

By laura

Recent Posts


Follow Us