Off Target for Aqua Media

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This article is over 9 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current.

Updated with the company’s response. See below.

Aqua Media Direct has a new product called Deep Footprint that claims to use advanced behavioral targeting to learn exactly what products you’re interested in. At least that’s what they told me it does in that spam email they sent me.

That’s right, they’ve got this sophisticated targeting, but they’re using a spam blast to promote it. According to their email, they’d like to "determine whether 'Deep Footprint' Behavioral Targeting or any of our products will provide a solution to your media needs." When you look at my blog, do you see any media needs there?

The message even uses that fantastic "I’m your fake buddy" spam technique where they try and address you by name and use your email user name. So if they’d sent a message to FoobAR@example.com, the message would start "Dear FoobAR." Ah, the wonders of mail merge.

So, if you’re considering using Aqua Media Direct’s targeting features, you might find yourself wondering why they aren’t using it themselves. Or maybe they are and the targeting really is this bad.

Update (10pm Dec 4): Tom Doyle, CEO of Aqua Media apparently tried to comment, but the comment system here ate his comments. There’s a couple access attempts from his IP address to my comment system, but the comments never hit the MT database. He apparently decided his comments were being censored, because he wrote me...

Hello Adam,

Since you’ve made an issue of an errant email from a team member, I responded to your post and expect that the response will be seen on your site if “fair and balanced” is a concept that your blog maintains as you are a professional journalist.

Our company publicly apologized for the email error and we harbor no negative assessment of your freedom of expression.

Tom Doyle
CEO
aqua media direct

I poked around their web site and the news wires and I haven’t found a public apology or an explanation of what happened. Tom neglected to provide me with a link, so I’m a little in the dark about what they might have said in their apology.

I grabbed his IP address out of his email headers and looked it up in my server logs. Looks like someone tried to comment and it failed. I’m not sure why, but I figured I’d help him get his comment on the site. Despite Tom’s condescending tone throughout his email, I replied cordially and upbeat.

I don’t see any comments on that blog entry, but I checked the server log file and found two attempts to post a comment from the same IP address that you sent this email from. So I’m guessing something ate the comment.

Your IP address is on almost every anti-spam blacklist out there, but that’s not terribly unusual for IPs belonging to big cable ISPs like Charter. Ironic, though, isn’t it? That might be what’s keeping your comment from being posted. It shouldn’t, since I get plenty of other comments from blacklisted IPs, but if you look enough like a spambot, my comment system will ignore anything you say. Or you might have Javascript disabled—that will prevent comments from getting through.

You could try and post the comment again, perhaps from a different computer or IP address. Or email it to me and I’ll post it on your behalf.

Also, note that I’m not a professional journalist as you state. Just a tech entrepreneur who found the idea of an ad targeting company sending untargeted emails too funny to pass up. Admittedly, "fair and balanced" isn’t something I worry about on my personal blog. I usually go more for "snarky and opinionated."

I tried to explain to Tom what might have happened. I gently corrected his mistaken belief that I’m a professional journalist. I offered a couple of solutions, including one that would be sure-fire: email it to me and I’ll post it for you. Tom didn’t take me up on the offer, and instead descended into threats of lawsuits and incoherent ramblings.

Have a good evening, Adam. You have completely misinterpreted our email introduction sent to a proven database that you were erroneously included in.

The intended recipients were the agency planners and advertisers we already have relationships with.

It would be fair for you to update and correct your post to reflect the truth. If you want to maintain that we engage in spam, you are sorely mistaken and it will reflect on you if we pursue an investigation.

I don’t plan on anything more as we are too busy to waste time on this.

It’s unfortunate that your view relates to our ISP, which is in fact Charter, while our view is on the professional online industry that we’ve known since its inception.

All the best,

Tom Doyle
CEO
aqua media direct

Tom asks that I update this post to include the truth. So I’ve posted the entire correspondence I’ve had with him. That’s about as truthful as it can get.

It’s just that his explanation is fairly dismissive and doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If it’s such a proven database of people they have existing relationships with, how did I end up in there? Where’d they get my email address, and why was it added into their Salesforce.com database? (They used Salesforce.com to send the original email.) I initially posted about this because I found it funny, but now I’d really like to know.

Tom takes issue with me calling this message spam, and even threatens "an investigation." Fine. It’s not spam. It’s a completely untargeted, unsolicited, mass email of a commercial nature from a company claiming to provide ad targeting services. Is that better?

I’m not really sure what Tom’s trying to say in his last paragraph, but it seems he might be concerned that I’m making disparaging remarks about Charter. I wasn’t, and was simply trying to explain to him why his communications might not be getting through.

It’s not uncommon for big cable and DSL ISPs to have their IP addresses on blacklists. IP addresses at big ISPs are a lot like public restrooms at a busy freeway offramp: they’re used by a lot of people, many of whom are not very clean. Some nasty signs up for an account, sends spam, get the IP blacklisted, and abandons the account. A few weeks later, it’s time for the ISP to assign you an IP address and you pick it up the blacklisted one from the random IP pool. The blame really lies two places. The ISP should do a better job of preventing their users from doing things that get them blacklisted, and the blacklist maintainers should probably be less aggressive about blacklisting dynamic IP addresses.

Adam Kalsey
December 4, 2007 11:31 PM

Just testing to make sure comments do indeed work here.

Tom Doyle
December 6, 2007 11:12 AM

Hi Adam, now that a few days have gone by, I want to let you in on the real irony. Aqua Media Direct does Deep Footprint targeting with online display advertising only, not email. We don't do any email advertising whatsoever. It's been a pleasure having this back and forth and we wish you the best. Tom

Adam Kalsey
December 10, 2007 6:04 PM

Tom: I'm guessing you mean that you don't make software for email advertising, because you certainly did advertise by email. You don't see the humor in a company that offers behavioral ad targeting software using spam to market to an anti-spam advocate? And even worse, you don't seem to be concerned that you sent spam. You attempt to explain it away but your language ("proven database") smacks of the same language spammers use. Or maybe it's just an expression of what you really think of your customers. They aren't people, they're part of a database.

Sally, software manager
December 19, 2007 6:04 AM

Spam is not a good way to advertise any products. Usually such letters arouse negative emotions.

Sandy T Fox
April 7, 2008 12:39 PM

Hilarious! I love it when spammers try to lie their way out of a situation. And then of course get all indignant when you catch them. Ironically, the guy in charge of the spamming either didn't read your email thoroughly, or more likely, didn't understand a bit of it so he just assumed you were blocking him. I believe his reaction to you speaks volumes about him. If he emails again, please post it. I'll keep this post bookmarked.

Adam Kalsey
July 24, 2008 2:55 PM

Hey look, another spam message from Aqua Media Direct! Wonder what their excuse is this time? ------- Hiadam, I'm excited to share the news that our company, Aqua Media Direct, Inc. announced today that we have launched a major teen channel incorporating 10 websites with endemic audiences of 12-19 year-olds. During the last few weeks, our Publisher Relations team signed representation agreements with 10 major teen publishers including MyGirlySpace.com, Glitter-Graphics.com, RevolutionMyspace.com, Screensavers.com, CheckOutMyInk.com and TheHolidaySpot.com that deliver cumulatively 46,897,930 monthly impressions and 4,689,793 unique teen users. These sites are transparent and are all linked to our ad server. We developed our teen channel because many advertisers have asked us to target 12-19 year-olds. It's our mission to provide advertisers with valuable content channels of endemic audiences and having teens is a crucial market segment. Aqua Media Direct was founded in late 2007 and is an online display media company that specializes in connecting advertisers with their target audiences worldwide. Our company has a trio of distinctive products: "True Site Representation" - 85 major client websites with endemic audiences and customizable features including RoadTripAmerica.com, AesopOnline.com, Townhall.com and Zedge.net; "Aqua Premium" - features the inventory of major client websites and is available for purchase by channel with special targeting options; "Aqua Performance" - has 1000's of websites classified by content and features a robust ad server that isolates and drives an audience response. I'd like to schedule a call to talk briefly about our new Teen Channel or any our 3 media products and special targeting features that might fill your advertising needs... 214-696-3000 Danny Hansard National Interactive Account Manager Aqua Media Direct Inc. Executive Offices 655 North Central Avenue 17th Floor Glendale, CA 91203 214-696-3000 ph 877-341-2808 fx danny@aquamediadirect.com Check out Aqua Media Direct's new website: http:// www.aquamediadirect. com Aqua Media News! http:// publications.mediapost. com /index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.san&s=68749&Nid=35027&p=417345 *CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: INFORMATION IN THIS MESSAGE, INCLUDING ANY SITE NAMES, CUSTOM CONTENT INFORMATION, SAMPLE SITES, AND/OR ATTACHMENTS FROM AQUA MEDIA DIRECT INC., IS INTENDED ONLY FOR THE PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL USE OF THE RECIPIENT(S) NAMED ABOVE. If you are not an intended recipient of this message, or an agent responsible for delivering it to an intended recipient, you are hereby notified that you have received this message in error, and that any review, dissemination, distribution, or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. If you received this message in error, please notify the sender immediately, delete the message, and return any hard copy print-outs. Thank You.

Danny Hansard
July 24, 2008 3:35 PM

You have been removed from our database. Danny Hansard National Interactive Account Manager Aqua Media Direct Inc.

Financial Affiliate Marketing
June 24, 2009 2:52 PM

I agree... a company that boasts "targeting" yet sends out widespread, un-targeted spam is very funny. I just received such a spam email today (6/24/2009). Steve Mills of AquaMediaDirect was the sender. Steve sent the spam to our corporate email address, which includes the words "financial" and "marketing" in our email address. We are strictly a financial marketing agency, yet Steve Mills; AKA AquaMediaDirect, sent his supposedly 'targeted' email to us, asking us to promote "green" eco-friendly products (toys, food, etc). What a joke. He claims his company is a 'targeted' marketing agency, so why would he send spam email about 'toy' and 'food' marketing to a dedicated 'financial' marketing agency? Also, in his response to you, he said his emails are intended only for people/agencies they have dealt with in the past... well, there's another laugh - we've NEVER done any business with AquaMedia!

Chase Bisheimer
September 30, 2009 12:38 PM

I would like to say that I DISLIKE Aqua Media Direct. It is spam, and I am sick of it redirecting me every 5 seconds. It interrupts me with whatever I'm doing. If there is a way to COMPLETELY block it from my everyday computer use, please let me know. Contact me at cheesy_1991@hotmail.com. Thank you.

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