I hadn’t realised just how soon after yesterday’s post a perfect example would come my way.  An email this morning from Government Computing, albeit from an email address any ruritanian spammer would be proud of. Not just a circular – this is personalised (small hint though guys – using the format ‘Dear PUBLIC’ doesn’t look quite as personal as some other ways you could have done it). Let’s not quibble though – they are eager to tell me that Guardian Public has published ‘a special independent report’ called A Journey Through Service Transformation. It sounds enticing – and instant gratification is to hand: ‘to download your free copy… simply click here’ it says.

So I did.

That takes me through a redirection page, no doubt to log my click against the mailing campaign, to a page on the Oracle site, which tells me about the ‘FREE exclusive report’ all over again, with a big red graphic imploring me to ‘DOWNLOAD NOW’, and in case I somehow miss that, a text link telling me to ‘Download your free copy here today’.

I am already thinking that if they were really that keen for me to read this report they could have let me have it by now, but the chase is on, so I click on the next link in confident expectation of finally reaching the prize.

Curiously, this gets me to yet another site which, a quick whois search tells me, is run by an outfit called Marketing Options Ltd who seem to live in Weybridge, but that probably doesn’t matter very much because the page is still resolutely Oracle branded – ‘Download your exclusive FREE report today!’, they enjoin, in bigger, redder text than ever before.

Well I thought I was.

But no.  There is nothing whatsoever on this page which lets me have the report they have been dangling in front of me.  What there is here is a form to fill in.  ‘Register below to download your FREE exclusive report’, it says, in considerably smaller and greyer type.  And if I were to fill it in, I could click the button at the bottom marked ‘Register’ and maybe, just maybe, like a rat navigating a maze, there would finally be the reward in the form  of a report or perhaps a small piece of cheese.

I don’t know, though, because I didn’t go any further.  Nobody at Oracle, or even Marketing Options Ltd, thought it worthwhile to tell me what attraction to me there might be in registering or what might happen as a result, and I get quite enough multi-channel junk mail already without adding to it.

So what has all this achieved?

  • I have wasted some of my time.  That matters to me, but not, apparently, to Government Computing, Kable, Guardian Public, Oracle or Marketing Options Ltd.
  • My opinion of Government Computing and Kable has been diminished:  I don’t recall inviting them to send me third party spam.
  • My opinion of Guardian Public has been diminished:  a report only available on an Oracle website, accessible only after registering with Oracle does not come within my understanding of ‘published by Guardian Public magazine’.  They may have been paid to write it, but that’s not the same thing.  That may be grossly unfair:  the report may be brilliant and genuinely independent in its content, but I am never going to know that, so that just leaves them with a bit of reputational damage.
  • My opinion of Oracle has been diminished:  they seem to be playing bait and switch, and have succeeded in taking a positive opportunity – they could have made it possible actually to get the report and to have got a pale glow of the reflected glory from the ever so independent Guardian Public – and turning it into self-inflicted damage, because they couldn’t resist the temptation to play games.

What a result for one small email.  The Robert Niles story I linked to yesterday was about a newspaper so wrapped in advertising that it was impossible to find the content:

Whenever I open our door on Sunday mornings, I never see the Los Angeles Times flag staring up at me from the porch. Instead, I see a two-pound advertising circular that, I know only from experience, contains the LA Times buried somewhere within.

Good service and good design both start with respecting the user.  This is a text book example of how not to do it.