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Alternative Media: Cautious Integration
SPAM still thwarting pharma's approach to e-mail marketing.


Pharmaceutical Executive


As with other channels, calculating the impact of e-mail marketing efforts can be challenging. Marketers must pay attention to the following metrics:

  • brand awareness
  • new patient trials
  • compliance and loyalty
  • brand switching and increased market share
  • campaign-driven incremental sales
  • channel ROI

But with e-mail, marketers can also monitor additional metrics, such as whether a message was sent, bounced, received, forwarded, opened, clicked through, or responded to.

Message Not Deliverable Pharma marketers that have adopted e-mail are faced with a new challenge—SPAM. Unsolicited bulk e-mail is flooding the same inboxes and competing with the messages that pharmaceutical companies are sending. According to Forrester Research, more than 80 percent of consumers deal with their cluttered inboxes by deleting all messages from people they don't know—or they stop using e-mail all together.


Daniel Goldberg
Ferris Research estimates that the annual cost of SPAM for US corporations is approximately $9 billion per year. In order for the pharma industry to overcome the issues associated with SPAM, they need to target their efforts in four areas: technology, federal legislation, industry regulations, and consumer education.

Technology Companies are testing technical solutions to help combat SPAM. As of yet, no solution has proved to be 100 percent effective. But the technologies that are currently being tested or implemented include e-mail authentication systems, like SPF and Caller ID, and domain keys.

E-mail authentication systems require senders to publish server records in a domain name server, and domain keys require senders to configure their servers to "sign" outgoing mail. Microsoft and AOL have adopted e-mail authentication systems, while Yahoo! and Earthlink are moving toward domain keys.

Internet service providers (ISPs) have established reputation systems like Iron Port's Bonded Sender. If marketers subscribe, they are automatically white-listed with any receiver who uses this system. However, ISPs have not yet widely implemented Bond Sender because of some challenges. If a consumer reports that a message received is SPAM, the sender incurs a fee. These fees can lead to significant costs to marketers, and leave them feeling like they don't have control of the sending process. Also, marketers don't have the ability to learn about the consumers who complain, so they have no way to audit or opt those people out.


Andrew Chamlin
The E-mail Service Provider Coalition and Direct Marketing Association are also actively involved in developing and implementing technology solutions to help combat SPAM issues.

Federal legislation Legislation has been passed to try and help the issue: The CAN-SPAM Act of 2004 requires that unsolicited commercial e-mail messages be labeled as such—although no standard method currently exists—and include opt-out instructions and the sender's mailing address. It also prohibits the use of deceptive subject lines and false headers. But this law hasn't had the desired effect. Today, 66 percent of consumers receive unsolicited bulk e-mail, according to Forrester Research.

Indeed, some would even argue that the volume of unsolicited e-mail has grown since the inception of the law, back in January of 2004. That's because spammers can easily hide from law enforcement or move offshore to send messages, leaving legitimate mailers to adjust to the new legislation. Federal lawmakers are trying to improve the situation by implementing a "Do Not E-mail" list. They are also toying with instituting fines for sending SPAM, while ISPs have begun bringing about lawsuits against spammers in an attempt to gain control of the problem.

Industry regulations Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL manage more than 50 percent of active e-mail addresses, which affords them the opportunity to set best practices for the industry and mandates for their users. Some of these best practices revolve around opt-in policies, how bounces are managed, and SPAM complaint processing.


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