The Spam Diaries

News and musings about the fight against spam.
 by Edward Falk

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Cell phone spam coming to America

Yes, yes, I know it's already here, but it's going to get worse.

Yesterday, I wrote that you should stay away from web sites that give away "free" ringtones. Here's why:

In May, one Scott Springer, a vice president for SmartReply*, writing for CRM Magazine, wrote that cell phone spam was the "new frontier for retailers". The gist of his article is that in his mind, direct mail, email spam, voice messaging, and text messaging are all just variations of the same wonderful thing called Direct Marketing. He grudgingly admits that sales calls and text messages to cell phones are regulated by law, and that you can only send these ads once the consumer has opted in.

His article discusses ways in which a consumer can be tricked into opting in. His favorite seems to be to offer the consumer ringtones, screensavers and other promotional incentives.

In his view — and the law may be on his side — the mere act of giving your phone number to anybody is an act of opting in to a lifetime of text message spam.

Well, I could go on, but I think James Bennett at Marketing Punk said it best with his blog entry Scott Springer of SmartReply is an Evil Jackass.

*I've been unable to figure out what SmartReply is, other than that entering 'SmartReply spam' into Google was an educational experience. They seem to be some sort of multi-level marketing system [update: the MLM company seems to have been a different, now defunct, company using the same name — see comments] that manages auto-responders or distributed spamming systems. It's pretty clear from visiting their web site that they specialize, or want to specialize, in answering machine and cellphone spam, both of which are illegal under USC 47.


Anonymous Eric Holmen said...

I'm the EVP of SmartReply, and unfortunately there is an non-existant, collapsed multi-level-marketing company out there with the same name. Learn all about us at, and how we try to improve the consumer experience, rather than degrade it, using individualized mediums and consumer consent.

The last thing we want to encourage is anyone being tricked to opting in to any text marketing campaign. The whole purpose (from our perspective) is to increase the relevance of the information that a customer receives from their preferred brands. For example, golfers aften want to know when new golf gadgets hit the market so they can better their game. People who drive cars want to know six hours in advance when gas prices go up, so that they can beat the price increase. There's 200 things that any consumer will want to know that brands can provide, but it's all at the control and discretion of the customer.

Read the following link, called "THE OPPOSITE OF INTRUSIVE" to get a better understanding of how to turn text marketing into something relevant and customer-controlled.

Eric Holmen
SmartReply, Inc.

(By the way - Scott Springer is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I've ever met, and a true advocate for consumer protection in opt-in marketing.)

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Jonathan Starets said...

I am a director at SmartReply and came across this article early this morning. We are NOT in the practice of 'tricking' people into text messaging programs. Often an incentive if offered to customers for signing up and trying something new. No tricks here.

Imagine this scenario: If I tricked you into giving me your cell phone number and then sent you a text message to come shop with me, would that work? Probably not & might very well have the reverse affect. You now have a negative experience (however big or small) associated with that particular store. Bad branding for sure.

These opt in or sign-up programs can be opted out of at anytime. So just because you joined once, definitely does not mean you're in forever & your number can never be used by another company.

I expect the average person to join between 2 - 5 of these type programs on the next 12 - 24 months. Coupons as a text message have many upsides, one being that you will never forget your coupon at home again!

There are definitely some crooked mobile businesses out there, but I assure you this type of spam does not originate from SmartReply.

6:41 AM  

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