43 years of unwanted advertising: happy birthday spam!

43 years of unwanted advertising: happy birthday spam!

43 years of unwanted advertising

On May 3, 1978, Gary Thuerk sent a message to 393 recipients on the ARPANET advertising the release of a new computer from Digital Equipment Corporation. Instead of sending a separate message to each person, Thuerk had an assistant write a single mass email. Thus was born the "spam": although the reactions were mostly negative, some of the users bought the advertised DEC computer. Where does the name "spam" come from?

The name "spam" is a contraction of "spiced ham", the name of a canned meat of the same name produced by Hormel Foods. The dish became part of English folklore thanks to a sketch made by Monty Python broadcast by the BBC in 1970: it was a satire on one of the few foods widely available during the Second World War and the rationing of supplies. Since then, the name "spam", in English, meant something "omnipresent".

The first major episode of commercial spam, however, only occurred in the 90s, with the spread of the web among private individuals. On March 5, 1994, the “Green Card spam” took place, the first spam case in the history of the web. A team of lawyers, Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, used the mass publication of Usenet users' email addresses to advertise their services - focused on immigration laws in the United States. Also in 1994, the NGO CitiHope tried to use spam for charitable purposes: it started a non-profit fundraiser to help children at risk during the Bosnian war. Unfortunately, private ISPs were only able to intervene against the NGO, while the authors of the "Green Card spam" were lucky despite initial criticism.

Both CitiHope and Canter and Siegel helped push the practice of spamming (and the creation of the first anti-spam filters) on e-mail, where it still remains a widespread phenomenon today. According to Google, as reported by Search Engine Land, email spam in 2020 increased by 60% compared to 2019. The majority of spam emails are not limited to advertising, but contribute to the spread of malware, ransomware and online scams of all kinds. . Kasperky, in collaboration with Wiko, commemorated the anniversary with a short guide to protect yourself and know how to recognize dangerous spam e-mails. But attention to spam must also involve other types of devices, such as cell phones and telephone calls. This is why we suggest you buy an antivirus that also protects your smartphone: to find out which ones offer this service, you can rely on our guide to the best antivirus.

To protect yourself from spam and related risks, we suggest you buy an antivirus. On Amazon you will find many products and numerous offers.

Television ad complaints up 43% last year

a person sitting at a desk in front of a keyboard: Generic person watching TV. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire © Nick Ansell Generic person watching TV. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Complaints about adverts on television increased by 43% last year, while influencer posts made up almost a quarter of all online cases, the regulator’s annual figures show.

Increased television viewing during lockdown could have been behind the sharp rise in complaints to 14,211 about 5,070 ads, but they still made up only one fifth of all cases, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said.

In contrast, complaints about influencer posts still made up a quarter of online cases despite decreasing by 8% on the year before.

a close up of a card: (Source: ASA) © Provided by PA Media (Source: ASA)

The ASA put influencers “on notice” after a monitoring sweep of more than 24,000 posts revealed the proportion of them sticking to the rules – in particular failing to make clear they were ads – was “far below what we would expect”.

The ASA and Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) annual report shows the regulator resolved 36,342 complaints about 22,823 ads in 2020 and had a record 36,491 ads withdrawn or amended – an increase of 346% on 2019 thanks to its use of technology-assisted online ad monitoring.

Online cases made up 61% of all cases and nearly half of all complaints across media, or 17,379 complaints about 14,512 cases.

The health and beauty sector had the most ads amended and withdrawn, in large part due to compliance projects investigating campaigns for botox and IV drips.

Ryanair’s “Jab and Go” ad was the most complained about last year and became the third most complained about advert of all time after prompting 2,371 complaints.

The advert encouraged consumers to book Easter and summer holidays with the airline after having received vaccinations, suggesting that people could “jab and go”.

But the ASA said that due to the “complex and constantly evolving” situation, consumers could be “confused or uncertain” and it was important that advertisers were “cautious”.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Despite the huge challenges of the last 12 months, we doubled down on protecting children and people in vulnerable circumstances.

“We smashed our previous record of ads amended or withdrawn. We’re exploring holding online platforms to greater account for their role in upholding responsible ads online and we’re running important projects on the environment, racial and ethnic stereotyping and body image.

“In all of this, our increased use of technology is transforming the way we tackle harmful and misleading ads and helping us to better protect people.”