Whatever You Do, Don’t Hit ‘Send’

Agencies got an early holiday present last week, courtesy of a computer error at The List, an Atlanta company that provides new-business leads through a database of marketing and advertising decision makers, often at a cost of up to $1,000 a year for agency subscribers.

George Rubsam, marketing director at The List, was trying to notify the company’s best agency clients of a seminar in Chicago that features a presentation by Boston consultancy Pile and Co. But Rubsam accidentally put some of the leads in the e-mail, allowing all who received it to see their names and e-mail addresses.

The information set off a flurry of e-mails. Some people began contacting people on the list to solicit business. Others began sending jokes to everyone on the list. The endless reply-alls caused the messages to grow so long that they were crashing the e-mail systems at some companies.

Many watching the fiasco were amused by it. Rubsam was not. He was close to tears when Shoptalk called. “It was an oversight, and I take full responsibility,” he says. “I feel horrible about it.”

He described the list of names and e-mail addresses as a “very select group of people” that the company wanted to ensure knew about the seminar. “We had only good intentions,” Rubsam says. “This isn’t the way The List does business.”

The List maintains a database of about 50,000 names of people who make key marketing and advertising decisions at companies nationwide.