Chinwag's Old Blog: No More AOL CDs - Rebelling Against Offline Spam

If this were a TV show, it'd be called something like 'When Direct Marketers Go Bad'. I'm talking about a website called No More AOL CDs, which I got told about this morning (thanks, Olly). The website has been set up by a group of people in the US who are fed up with the deluge of free CDs from ISPs like AOL, CompuServe and Netscape.

Their aim is to collect 1 million unwanted CDs from AOL, and then return them to AOL's corporate HQ and they've got over 88,000 already! The website is, homegrown, but that's not the point. It's an interesting lesson in consumer activism that only the Internet really makes possible, at least initially anyway. There's already a growing list of media outlets who have picked up on the story, so expect TV and newspaper coverage this side of the pond within the next couple of weeks.

From a business perspective this website clearly illustrates what digital marketers have known for a long time. If you don't limit the frequency of your adverts, people do eventually get fed up. From personal experience, I've only had a handful of AOL CDs through my letterbox in the last couple of years, but then we lucky Brits haven't been blessed with giant ISPs for quite as long as our friends across the pond. I suspect it's only a matter of time. I'm just hoping that some of the more aggressive financial services companies (yes, MBNA, I'm talking about you), would get the message after the 10th letter that there's no way I'm ever going to sign up. Maybe I should just admire their tenacity.

I'm going to keep a close eye on how No More AOL CDs develops. They already have 'chapters' in Australia, France, Germany and the UK. If nothing else, it's an interesting way to discover how much money AOL are spending on their direct marketing campaigns. If you make (an admittedly huge assumption) based on the number of CDs they've been sent so far, the ranking of AOL's marketing budget by country is:

  1. USA
  2. Germany
  3. UK
  4. France
  5. Australia

The only surprise for me, is that AOL - I hesitate to use the phrase offline spammer, because I'm sure all the names & addresses, were obtained with the proper permission, perhaps over-enthusiastic direct marketers would be better - haven't suffered this criticism earlier. Perhaps the increasing focus on data protection and personal privacy that most digital marketers are taking very seriously will be treated with the some gravity offline.