Autobytel Inc. (autobytel.com) has told its affiliates to stop sending leads they generate through their own spam campaigns. The reason: The leads were of poor quality.
Although the online automotive marketing company says it does not spam consumers directly, it admits that its affiliates do and the resulting leads are directed to Autobytel. But dealers did not like the quality of the leads because many of the consumers were not serious about buying a vehicle.
So far, Autobytel says, the affiliates - other Web sites with links and automotive content from Autobytel - are complying. These sites are paid based on the number of leads they send to Autobytel.
Autobytel would not reveal how many affiliates it has, saying that would give away a competitive advantage. But it does include all major Internet portals.
"We said this is just not a good business practice - the economics don't work," Andrew Donchak, Autobytel's chief marketing officer, says of the decision that took effect in April. "It
doesn't engender trust with our consumers. It's not a good value for our dealers."
Even as Autobytel was changing its policy, three online rivals - Microsoft Corp. (microsoft.com), America Online Inc. (aol.com), and Yahoo! (yahoo.com) - joined forces to clamp down on spam. Leighton Smith, MSN Autos business manager, calls spam a broad problem. "Everybody's impacted, automotive and everybody."
MSN Autos has strict policies with the automakers to prevent its users from being spammed, he says. For example, if a consumer seeks a price quote on a Ford Explorer through MSN Autos, Ford cannot use the consumer's private information to send unwanted e-mails.