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AntiSpamAction, the EmailStrategy feedback loop. Interview with Steeve Daraize


Today, we will focus on a technology recently implemented by the router EmailStrategy. This technology, AntiSpamAction, reduces the number of complaints by placing a "Report as spam" link directly in the email header, thus complementing the anti-spam buttons on webmails and ISPs.

In the small world of French email marketing, this technique does not generally leave indifferent. For some, it is not the role of a router; for others, it is a very good way to protect the consumer upstream.

In order to form an opinion, we had the opportunity to speak with Steeve DaraizeManager of Delivrability at EmailStrategy.

The interview

Can you explain in a few words what AntiSpamAction is for the consumer?

AntiSpamAction was officially implemented in early June 2013 after several months of conclusive testing. Concretely, it is a complete feedback-loop with immediate exclusion of the complaining email address.

When the recipient clicks on the AntiSpamAction link, our teams are immediately notified and his email address is both :

  • unsubscribed from the client's mailing lists with the reason "Spam Complaint
  • excluded from future shipments from this customer (customer exclusion lists)

We have implemented this technique in order to drastically reduce the number of complaints generated by mailings passing through our wewmanager routing platform and, above all, to respect the choice of recipients who wish not only to report a message as undesirable but, above all, to stop receiving communications.

And technically, how does it work? What data does the advertiser have access to?

This is an unsubscribe AND opt-out system with immediate effect. It guarantees that the recipient will no longer be contacted by our client and that our client will reduce the number of complaints in order to better deliver. It is therefore a win/win system, effective and very simple to implement.

On the client side, the information related to these unsubscribes/exclusions is sent in real time to the wewmanager routing platform. The email address is flagged as a "complaint" in the platform's Delivrability module to allow the client to monitor its online reputation.

How is AntiSpamAction more interesting than traditional feedback loops? Isn't it more reassuring for the advertiser to go through a trusted third party?

AntiSpamAction is more interesting than the classic feedback loops since it is a complete device that will not only report the recorded complaints but also - and above all - guarantee that the recipient will not be contacted again by our client.

With AntiSpamAction, we make sure that any complaint is followed up FOR THE COMPLAINTING EMAIL ADDRESS - which is not the case with "classic" FBL. To my knowledge, only AntiSpamAction currently offers this level of accuracy and guarantee.

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Shouldn't it be the role of an actor like Signal Spam to propose such a technology?

It is precisely because we are active members of the association Signal SPAM that it seems to us opportune to test and to propose innovative and effective devices within the framework of the anti-SPAM fight that we lead jointly. We hope that our good results will convince Signal SPAM of the merits of this approach.

When we arrive on the AntiSpamAction confirmation page, there is no mention of EmailStrategie. Isn't there a deception towards the consumer?

There are several reasons why we have decided not to include the name of EmailStrategie:

  • As a router, one might assume that we want to deliver more and more emails. This is not true. The use of the name AntiSpamAction reflects the neutrality of this system which is intended to respect both our customers - who have all the information on the recorded complaints - and the Internet users who have made the reports.
  • Moreover, some of our customers prefer not to show the name of their router for their emailing campaigns. It therefore seemed coherent to us to continue to respect this desire.

However, the "who is" at the time of registration of the IP is well informed: there is no "deception".

What is the reaction of EmailStrategie's customers when you suggest them to use AntiSpamAction for their campaigns?

The AntiSpamAction device is free... and efficient, especially in the context of acquisition operations: it allows to reduce the number of complaints and to purify databases without affecting the deliverability of campaigns.

Even the most skeptical customers have fully embraced this system after analyzing its results themselves.

When AntiSpamAction is used for a campaign, what is the decrease in complaints received via the classic feedback loops? Have you had the opportunity to measure this impact?

The AntiSpamAction device allows to divide by 4 the number of complaints received via the traditional feedback loops.

What are the future innovations envisaged by EmailStrategie in the field of deliverability?

For AntiSpamAction, we have just set up an export system of complaints for customers who use several routers: an address blocked by AntiSpamAction can thus also be excluded from sendings made via other routers.

Concerning the evolutions related to the management of deliverability, we are working on two projects:

  • a "manager" allowing the subscriber to choose the level of exclusion desired (only promotions, only the newsletter, etc.)
  • a system to detect complaints, blacklists and spam-traps more quickly

A last word to conclude?

The AntiSpamAction device has been criticized by some for diverting complaints or overstepping our role as a router. We are happy that Badsender gives us the opportunity to express ourselves on this subject and we hope that the regulatory authorities of the market will recognize the merits of our initiative, will consider its results and will join us in a proactive approach allowing us to make evolve a device we believe in.

Warning : Following EmailStrategie's request, this interview has been modified after its first publication.

The author

8 réponses

  1. This principle puzzles me ...

    "...AntiSpamAction is more interesting since it is a complete feedback loop that will not only track the number of complaints registered but will also ensure that the target will not be contacted again by our client..."

    I don't see the difference between this principle and an unsubscribe link that would work properly.

    "...In addition, and this is one of the reasons why we have implemented this technique, via feedback loops, it is sometimes difficult to identify the subscriber. With AntiSpamAction, we make sure that any complaint is acted upon..."

    All the FBLs on the market (hotmail, yahoo, aol, signal spam) already allow you to identify the complainants in order to unsubscribe them, it is even essential to maintain a good reputation and therefore a good deliverability.

    On the other hand, the disadvantage of such a system is that it diverts complaints from the Internet user and these complaints do not feed the ISPs' anti-spam or the ecosystem.

    For these reasons, AntiSpamAction could rather be seen as a way to circumvent deliverability problems by not trying to solve the real causes but by diverting the complaints from their initial vocation.

    Jérôme Gays

  2. Hello Jérôme,

    Thank you for this comment which highlights the questions of the market players and allows us to clarify the objectives of our approach.

    "I don't see the difference between this principle and an unsubscribe link that would work properly."

    As you know, the generic term "unsubscribe link" covers several realities: it can be a "campaign" unsubscribe (the most frequent unsubscribe link that only unsubscribes the Internet user from THE mailing list used for THIS campaign only) or a "client" unsubscribe (the email address is unsubscribed from all the mailing lists of this client). The "campaign" unsubscription does not correspond to the expectation of the Internet user who does not wish to receive any more messages from this advertiser; same thing for the "customer" unsubscription which can be circumvented by using several customer accounts, several company names, brands, etc. AntiSpamAction allows a definitive "customer" unsubscription, single or multi-account, which guarantees that the user will not receive any more emails from this advertiser.

    "All the FBLs on the market (Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, Signal Spam) already make it possible to identify complainants in order to unsubscribe them, it's even essential to maintain a good reputation and therefore good deliverability."

    FBLs work. This is not to question their usefulness. But they only allow us to send the information back, the unsubscribing remaining then under the responsibility of the routers and/or their customers. The implementation of AntiSpamAction has allowed us to automate the unsubscriptions and to drastically reduce our Signal SPAM statistics in terms of complaints. You can easily check it.

    "On the other hand, the downside of such a system is that it diverts complaints away from the Internet user and these complaints do not feed into the ISPs' anti-SPAMS or ecosystem."

    The AntiSpamAction device has been set up to guarantee to the Internet user the immediate and effective consideration of his complaint. For us, this is an integral part of our responsibility as a router.

    It is not a question of bypassing the systems in place, but rather of proposing to the market complementary systems which, in our daily practice, show their effectiveness. We have also proposed to the Signal SPAM association - of which we are a member - the implementation of a return flow in order to communicate these reports and to feed the ecosystem. A proposal which, to date, has remained unanswered.

    It should also be noted that the AntiSpamAction device is only the tip of the iceberg since we also fight against SPAM by making our customers aware of the importance of respecting clean acquisition methods and relevant targeting criteria.

  3. I totally agree with Jérôme, this device is a false solution and only keeps some clients, especially those who do acquisition and performance, in denial of the obvious: if their recipients complain so much about spam... It's because their mailings are considered as spam and their business model is not viable.

    It would be better to make sure that the unsubscribe link is visible and works properly, and especially that the unsubscribe is complete and not partial since this is still a common practice in the performance emailing business.

  4. It should be added that the FBLs made available to routers are not legion (Hotmail, Signal Spam, Yahoo and AOL); this often covers less than 50 % of the base. This type of link allows this "silent majority" to express themselves and to indicate their dissatisfaction directly to the advertiser.

    At MailinBlue, we have been implementing it with certain advertisers for over a year.
    This link has its effectiveness for databases collected in optin partner or coregistration.
    It is also a comfort for the Internet user who no longer goes through a 2-click process (click on the unsubscribe link + click on the unsubscribe button) since the complaint is immediately registered and the subscriber is blacklisted.

    Regarding the decrease in the number of complaints, we did not see the same metrics: the impact on the volume of FBL complaints was not massive.

    To go in the direction of Jérome and Jean-Baptiste, this is obviously not a solution to deliverability problems. It should be considered as an additional metric to refine a deliverability strategy.

  5. Hello,
    I just discovered your service after receiving unwanted emails.
    Your approach seems interesting if it can clean up the situation.
    There are several ways to complete your device:
    - systematic transmission of returns to SignalSpam. The aim is not to force their hand but to avoid dispersion or the idea of dilution of actions.
    - add a flag to report unscrupulous advertisers who, despite unsubscribing, switch from one broadcaster to another. The objective is to better identify and blacklist companies that circumvent the system (partial unsubscribing, complicit routers ....) and thus allow actors such as Signalspam or the CNIL to stop these practices. Personal example: the advertiser reported today had been unsubscribed by one of your colleagues.
    - how to inform recipients about the origin of the collection of their address. Contract of trust with your customers committing to provide it in case of complaint?

  6. Hello,

    Back to your site to report on the operation.
    On February 06, 2014 I had discovered following the receipt of emails from TONER SERVICE that rots my inbox. Your approach seemed interesting and I had activated the unsubscription.
    Today 08 March 2014 new spam from this company with new unsubscribe!

    Conclusion, in the best case it doesn't work, in the worst case it's a pipot.

  7. Hello,

    Thanks to Jonathan for this interview which highlights, behind a technical solution, a real global problem: the lack of FBL for French ISPs (Orange, Free, SFR).
    Orange collects complaints and communicates the volumes of complaints to advertisers; but refuses the explicit transmission of complaints. The advertiser therefore continues to send emails to Internet users who refuse them.
    Signal Spam is a nice initiative but still limited in terms of coverage of Internet users.

    @JeromeGay, Why wouldn't Signal Spam propose to the router a system similar to this "AntiSpamAction" ? A button would be inserted in the mail and tracked by Signal Spam with an FBL and an official label ... Otherwise, I understand that actors are looking for alternatives (bypass)!


  8. Hello,

    An FBL is not a due to the senders and unsubscribing complainants is not the main purpose.

    Even if unsubscribing the complainers solves the problem on the surface, it doesn't solve the fundamental problem which is that if the Internet users complain in important proportions, the collection, the content or the targeting is not good.

    ISPs consider that FBLs are not machines for washing email databases.

    We can see a trend at the moment: Signal Spam only provides statistics of complaints aggregated by IP and by day and the new Gmail FBL will only provide rates of complaints by campaign without the possibility to unsubscribe complainants, and it is not impossible that this trend will make small, on the historical FBLs...

    My opinion is that senders will have to get used to working with statistical data about complaints and find other ways to lower complaint rates than (simply) unsubscribing complainants.

    Have a nice day,

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