Friday, 22 June 2007


Telemarketing. At the moment, everyone hates it. Australia's federal government has recently started advertising a National "Do Not Call" Register - but they're going about it the wrong way. For starters, they're advertising this register with banner ads. (How can that possibly be right?) Also, you apparently have to renew your "I hate telemarketing" plea annually, so you have to actively maintain that you're not interested. And this all leaves one big question: If nearly everyone hates telemarketing (a theory that a simple poll will surely support), and if the federal government can guarantee that my phone number won't be targeted for a year, then why can't they just do that without my having to do anything? Why can't they just abolish telemarketing altogether?

So here's my proposal. Abolish telemarketing as you know it. Instead, let's have a national register of people who have signed up to receive exclusive offers from Australian businesses. This register would naturally be a lot smaller than the phone book, but it would be fully opt-in, which is greatly preferable for the businesses advertising to it. Of course, the businesses would have to have some exclusive offer for this to work. (In the early stages, while the register is still small, the offers could be quite spiffy - there'll only be a handful of takers, so it won't hurt the business much. That would encourage uptake - "Belkin rang me to offer a wireless router and four wireless network cards at HALF PRICE!".) For charities seeking donations, an exclusive donor list (eg "Platinum Sponsors") for telephoned people who gave $100 would give similar exclusivity and attractiveness.

The end result of this would be an advertisable register that people would actually want to be on. Nobody would be annoyed by telemarketing any more - those who want its benefits get it, those who don't don't - and businesses would save a lot of money (would you rather phone a million people and get two responses, or phone a dozen people and get two responses?).

But nobody has the guts to do it, because in the short term it would completely kill telemarketing (until the register gets some numbers on it). That'd be a good thing for the consumer, a bad one for the advertisers.

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