Archive for the ‘Email Industry News’ Category

Canadian Anti-Spam Law Expert Talks CASL

Posted by Rob Ropars on March 12th, 2015


Interview with Shaun Brown, Canadian lawyer practicing at nNovation LLP and Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) expert

These are the opinions of the guest and not that of Harland Clarke Digital. This does not serve as legal advice and is informational only. Facts and circumstances vary, so please seek the advice of counsel on the topics discussed below if you have further questions. 

HCD: In the lead up to CASL’s final form, what surprised you most about the Canadian government’s approach to promulgating this law?

SB: The fact that it happened at all. It was a big undertaking, and it’s a fairly aggressive approach. When you look at federal privacy legislation, which has been in place for almost 15 years, the government has been working since 2006 to make relatively minor amendments to that law, and it still hasn’t happened.

In the same time period, CASL was drafted from scratch, addressing a variety of issues, and although it draws on the experiences from other countries, it was largely new. So, I think the most surprising thing was the government having the energy to draft and get CASL through the legislative process.

HCD: What do you consider to be CASL’s strengths as an anti-spam law?

SB: In many ways, the government tried to capture and reflect industry best practices.

HCD: Conversely, what are its weaknesses?

SB: CASL is very prescriptive. It’s a very detailed set of rules for sending email. While spam and malware can bring huge problems/threats, the vast majority of businesses are doing things right, and the emails they send aren’t a huge problem for most consumers. So, we have ended up with a large number of rules, in some cases redundant/overlapping to other laws, which now causes challenges for compliance. For example, there are various requirements for capturing opt-in consent, such as the requirement to provide more specific contact information and telling a person he/she can unsubscribe — these things can be a hassle.

HCD: Based on your dialogue with industries and businesses, what are the top misconceptions/questions you heard prior to CASL’s launch?

SB: A lot of people weren’t aware of allowances to transition existing databases, such as the transition provision for extending the time periods for implied consent, and the ability to grandfather those with existing consent obtained in compliance with privacy legislation.

Also, some didn’t understand the breadth of some of the implied consent provisions, specifically within the B2B space. For example, consent can be implied if someone gives you his/her email address, or if he/she conspicuously publishes his/her email address, so long as the information you send is relevant to what the recipient does in his/her business capacity. This can be quite helpful for B2B marketing where you have to essentially “cold call” people by email, which is less appropriate in B2C context.

Another example was how Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was going to enforce the legislation. With penalties of up to $10 million per violation, there was a lot of concern that the CRTC would begin penalizing everyone for minor violations. This hasn’t been the case.

HCD: What are the top misconceptions/questions you heard since CASL’s launch?

SB: Generally the same as pre-launch, but the computer program rules in CASL went into force the week of Jan. 12 of this year. So for some businesses, the focus has moved to these rules, which are potentially more complicated as are the involved scenarios. The software portion of CASL does not impact as many businesses, whereas the anti-spam portions apply to anyone doing email marketing.

The computer rules don’t apply as broadly as a lot of people think at first glance. CASL only applies when a business is installing software on someone else’s computer, not self-installed software. A large number of software programs are self-installed, i.e., apps.

HCD: We are six months post-CASL’s official start date (7/1/14). What did you anticipate we’d be experiencing at this point?

SB: I thought we might see a few published enforcement actions by now, although I knew it would take some time. The fact that we haven’t seen anything yet is not a bad thing.

This indicates, to me, that the CRTC investigations are complex, and they’re not coming out looking to tag some bigger business with “borderline” enforcement issues. This suggests that they are looking at the worst behavior going on, and it’s complex with multiple levels and players potentially in various countries.

Of course that is largely speculative at this point. There were comments pre-launch that maybe this was going to dramatically change email marketing, and people weren’t going to use email any more. I haven’t seen any indication of that.

HCD: Related to that, what has actually transpired related to CASL enforcement thus far?

SB: The indications, so far, are that the CRTC is going to tend to be reasonable, and for the time being focus on the worst actors causing actual harm to consumers.

HCD: Looking ahead, what do you anticipate we’ll have seen occur when we reach the first anniversary of CASL’s launch?

SB: More of the same. We could see some enforcement actions based on my assumptions about the type of situations being investigated. I don’t know if that’s going to result in guidance to the average email marketer however.

For example, there are outstanding questions about what constitutes a Commercial Electronic Message (CEM) vs. a transactional message. I don’t know if the CRTC is focusing on those types of specific questions/scenarios. I don’t think they’re focused on things that impact the day-to-day reality of marketers. I could be wrong, but don’t expect to see anything that will dramatically impact what email marketers are doing in the next six months.

Shaun, I want to thank you for taking some time to talk with me and share your thoughts on CASL with the readers of Digital Spin.

UPDATE: Following my interview with Shaun, the first CASL enforcement has coincidentally occurred.

CRTC Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer issues $1.1 million penalty to Compu-Finder for spamming Canadians


Enchantment, Deliverability and The Beatles

Posted by Kavita Jaswal on February 13th, 2015

KJBlog_21315The Email Evolution Conference (EEC) in Miami was all it promised to be. As we boarded the yacht of information and sailed along the smooth sea of industry-expert knowledge, I was able to soak in an abundance of informative ideas, trends and industry information.

Here are a few key points I took away from the conference:

Opening keynote speaker, Guy Kawasaki spoke to the “Art of Enchantment.” He defined enchantment as, “the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization or idea,” and introduced this concept with the idea of creating an atmosphere of likability and trust in any given situation. He went further by stating that, “cultivating those elements  into a service or product, we can “enchant” a consumer.”

As marketers, our email campaigns rely heavily on engagement. We create and deploy several emails within one campaign, collect data, test and analyze metrics. But sometimes, no matter what we do, we do not get the results we are looking for. Kawasaki’s theory is not rocket science, anyone can assume that being “delighted” with a service or product would initiate the click of a button to open an email or request more information, but to actually attain that level of enchantment through elements such as likeability and trust is the challenge.

An email marketing conference would not be complete without the topic of deliverability. In his Deliverability 101 session, Spencer Kollas spoke to the importance deliverability has on an organization as, “98% of brands use email as a marketing channel.” Clearly, this indicates the importance email deliverability can have on an organization’s overall marketing plan.

Kollas also discussed how, “78% of organizations globally have had deliverability issues within the last 12 months.” The results are not only staggering, but they prove the point that an organization must continuously monitor bounce rates, manage list hygiene and ensure its sender reputation is not susceptible to email filtering. The discussion lead to various types of spam traps, and the impact they have on inbox delivery. Once an IP address is blacklisted in a spam database, 85-90% of mail can be blocked. These are frightening figures for any marketer, but it’s more proof that organizations need to pro-actively take all the necessary steps to stay clear of simple spam traps.

Through a series of cleverly chosen song and album titles, a panel of industry experts lead a discussion on trending topics that encompass the future of email marketing.

The Beatles’ “Here, There and Every Where,” began a discussion on today’s omnichannel consumer. Today, marketers have the ability to reach customers through multiple channels other than email. What does this mean for today’s marketer? While it’s still necessary to utilize and optimize an email communications plan, we must  use a multi-level approach for any email campaign can offer greater opportunity for success.

R.E.M.’s “Automatic For the People,” lead to a conversation of traditional vs. behavioral marketing. Traditional email included the idea of filling up a marketing calendar with general content. Today, behavioral marketing is more impactful and easily accessible through data collection and marketing automation. The general idea was to go from being a push marketer to advancing into a pull marketer. This means instead of pushing out all sorts of content and information that is relevant to your brand as a whole, you take the time to learn more about what your consumers want to read by pulling in data and revising and personalizing your content calendar on a regular basis.’s “Geekin’” brought about a discussion on the ever present struggle between a company’s marketing department and respective technical teams. As we progress into the future, marketers need to get their left-brain wheels turning, so to speak. Technology is now a big part of marketing and everything we do seems to be more data-centric. In order to progress towards these technological advances, pairing up with other departments and working cohesively can ensure successful outcomes.

Beginning with a keynote session on enchantment, a seminar on deliverability and a panel discussion on what we can expect for the future of email marketing, the EEC proved to be an informative and insightful success.

For more insight from the EEC, check out the Twitter stream from attendees using the EEC15 hashtag.


Wolves among the sheep – How To Spot Fraudulent Email Lurking In Your Inbox

Posted by Rob Ropars on April 1st, 2014

emailfraudAs the volume of email increases year after year, so does the risk of receiving, and falling victim to, fraudulent email. As villains become increasingly more sophisticated, the average person is finding it harder and harder to discern the difference between legitimate and fake email. In particular, many fake email messages contain images and wording that appear to be from major brands and financial institutions.

So what’s a consumer to do? There are a variety of warning signs to watch for before you open and click on an email. One suspicious element does not necessarily mean you’re looking at a threatening email, but the more red flags you encounter, the more cautious you should be.

Here’s a brief checklist of things to watch for…

  • The email has a generic greeting, is not personalized accurately, or contains odd capitalization, poor grammar, typos and/or strange spellings (i.e., “u$ername” or “acc0unt number”).
  • The from name and reply email address might not match or make sense. Legitimate businesses and banks use their name/brand in some manner as the “from name” and a reply address shouldn’t be at some unrelated domain or personal ISP-based email. In other words an email from “Example Bank” that has a reply email address of wouldn’t make sense.
  • The urgency of the message may include some sort of limited time frame and what feels like a threat if you don’t take action. Examples might be claiming your account has been suspended and you need to click to verify your information.
  • The links, when you hover over them, don’t appear to point where they claim. Watch out in particular for URLs that are redirecting to an IP based one (i.e., you see in the email, but when you hover it’s going to Note that many businesses use services to send email which include tracking information (such as…) and that is not an issue.
  • Contains a link to click and immediately logs you into an account/website. That’s extremely risky and could be hijacking you into a malicious website. They could also have an embedded form to complete and submit which, again, could be an attempt to capture your information.
  • The email may have attachments, which are a frequent source of viruses and spy/malware. Legitimate business emails will direct you to a place to download documents or apps so you can confirm the source before downloading anything.
  • Request for charitable donations from organizations you’ve never heard of and can’t verify easily online.
  • Any of a number of scams about inheritance or lottery winnings, in particular involving foreign residents, lawyers/barristers and banks. These are typically offering to give/share a large portion of a vast amount of money in exchange for your help with transferring the money. As long as you can provide your personal details, bank account number, your bank’s routing number, etc.
  • The message contains any of the elements above AND the text is all embedded within an image. This is a common spammer tactic to avoid keyword filters. The image is often hyperlinked and even the simple act of loading the image triggers a hit to the sender that they’ve reached a valid address (out of the thousands or millions they’ve just bulk targeted).
  • The age-old rule should always apply: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What are they trying to capture?

The details vary, but there are core sets of items that make up your identity that are invaluable to online predators.

  • Your name
  • Your Social Security number (SSN)
  • Username/password/PIN information
  • Banking information including account number, ATM/debit/credit card numbers
  • Your credit card’s CVC (card verification value)

What do they want this information for?

Criminals want to steal your identity and steal/launder money online. With the above information, they can:

  • Apply and get credit under your name
  • Empty your bank account
  • Use your credit cards to their maximum
  • Transfer money from various accounts into the account tied to a debit card and then withdraw cash from worldwide ATMs
  • Launder money for global organized crime syndicates through your account in small batches over time

What should you do to protect yourself?

  • Don’t reply to email messages asking for personal information.
  • Know how companies and banks you do business with contact their customers (what format, what they’ll never ask, etc.).
  • Don’t click links in any email you think may be suspicious. You can always go to their site in a browser and safely search for the same product, sale or information. When in doubt, check out the website.
  • Use strong passwords and change them often. This has been and remains the biggest Achilles’ heel for consumers. The vast number of passwords we need to remember and use on a daily basis make it very easy to fall into a habit of easy and reused passwords across various logins. There are a number of online tools to generate strong passwords such as this one
  • Never send personally identifiable information via email (logins, Social Security number, account numbers, etc.). If it’s intercepted between point A and B, you’ve compromised yourself.
  • Make sure you’re doing businesses with companies and banks you know and trust.
  • When ordering online, always be sure the website uses a secure connection (address bar should have https:// at the start of the link after you log in and you should see a small “lock” symbol at the top or bottom of your browser).
  • Your company and home computers, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices should all have a reliable firewall to protect against viruses and malware (such as ZoneAlarm for example).
  • Make a habit to watch your bank accounts via their online banking portal or app. Watch for unusual deposits/withdrawals should be noted and confirmed with your bank. Having a dedicated credit card for online purchases will also help you track transactions easier and helps manage your liability.

You can review a current overview of phishing schemes at the Anti-Phishing Working Group website. You can also contact them to report possible phishing incidents via email at

How else can you report online fraud and identity theft?
Contact the FBI or FTC. You can even forward suspicious email to the FTC (which is the regulatory agency that pursues anti-spam investigations) at


1. University of Oxford, IT Services – How To Recognize Fake Emails

2. Identify fraudulent e-mail and phishing schemes

3. Amazon – Identifying Spoof E-mails


Worried About Gmail Tabs? Frankie Says Relax

Posted by Dave McCue on August 12th, 2013

New Gmail Tabbed Inbox“Sometimes it feels like our inboxes are controlling us, rather than the other way around.” — Google

Gmail’s new tabbed inbox, which was rolled out to all Gmail users in late July, is the latest buzz around the email marketing water cooler. The revamped layout features tabs that are intended to better organize users’ inboxes by automatically filtering incoming messages into pre-defined “buckets” including Primary, Promotions and Social by default, and the optional Updates and Forums.

Gmail Promotions TabFor some in the email marketing world, the Promotions tab is causing an understandable bit of anxiety. The fear is that messages outside of the Primary tab are less likely to be read, and email marketing campaigns will be left to pile up within the Promotions tab and have a negative impact on response rates.

While this scenario is definitely not out of the question, it’s too early to measure impact at this point. It’s not too early, however, to recognize the improved user experience that Gmail’s tabs provide. Most people’s inboxes are filled with an assortment of personal, work-related, promotional, informational, and social emails every single day. Gmail’s tabs make sifting through emails easier by looking at one mini-inbox at a time, as opposed to hundreds of emails of all types all fighting with each other for the chance to be seen in one general inbox.

What Gmail tabs mean for marketers

Despite the obvious concerns, Gmail’s tabs might not be such a bad thing for email marketers.

  • When popular email clients such as Gmail take steps to improve the user experience, it makes email a more useful channel overall.
  • Users can easily move messages from specific senders to different tabs. Brands who have strong recipient relationships will likely find themselves in the Primary tab.
  • Many recipients delete marketing messages en masse just to narrow their inbox down to higher-priority communications from friends, family and colleagues. The tabbed layout will shield many marketing campaigns from this behavior — users looking in the Promotions tab won’t be expecting anything else.
  • A recipient who is in the mood to shop will likely browse through the promotions tab. By opening the email when they feel ready to receive that type of email, the intention to act is actually greater and the chance for conversion is more probable than before

For now, we suggest marketers take a deep breath and relax. Monitor response among Gmail users and adjust accordingly. For example, time-sensitive offers may be less effective if engagement is delayed for recipients who monitor the Promotions tab less frequently. You might also prompt Gmail recipients to move your messages out of the Promotions tab — perhaps “Add us to your Primary tab” will become the new “Add us to your safe sender list.”

If user response to Gmail tabs is positive, it’s likely other popular email clients will follow suit. As with any other measure designed to make the email inbox more manageable, the goal is to provide a better user experience. Contribute to that user experience by providing value with each communication you send.


How Gmail Changes Affect Your Recipients

Posted by admin on July 22nd, 2011

When Google unveiled Priority Inbox for Gmail last year, email marketers of the world took notice. Recently, Gmail introduced a method for displaying sender authentication details and additional inbox options that could once again impact the way users engage with marketing messages.

Being able to see sender authentication details will help users minimize the risk of opening a malicious email such as a spoof, phishing email (see example below), or even a virus. There will also be warning messages if Gmail suspects the message to be part of a phishing scam. For more information see Google’s blog post, “Protect yourself from scams by knowing who really emailed you.”


Gmail will also introduce a new option to “Try on a new inbox.” This feature will gives users the ability to view their inbox with different levels of filtering applied: Classic, Priority Inbox, Important First, Unread First, or Starred First.


  • Classic – This is the default inbox style most people are used to. In the Classic inbox, messages are ordered chronologically, with the most recent email at the top.
  • Priority Inbox – Important and unread messages appear at the top of your inbox, then starred messages, then everything else.
  • Important first – This style puts important mail at the top of the page (both read and unread messages). Everything else is in its own section at the bottom of your inbox.
  • Unread first – Simple: unread mail at the top; everything else at the bottom.
  • Starred first – Starred messages at the top; everything else at the bottom.

For email marketers, this should serve notice that inboxes are becoming more and more intelligent in an effort to ease the sense of email overload so common to recipients. Hotmail, for instance, offers a similar option to toggle between different variations of the inbox, in addition to a “sweep” feature that lets users quickly sort all messages (and future messages) from a sender into a designated location.

Features such as these offer both a unique challenge and potential benefits to marketers. Not only have recipients become more knowledgeable about how email works, but their inboxes have made it much easier to sort through their messages. Keep sending messages with valuable content to achieve “priority” status with your recipients, and let the Spammers weed themselves out of view with a little help from today’s intelligent inboxes.