How Will Canada’s Anti Spam Law Affect Your Business?

Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation (CASL) arrives on July 1, 2014. Described as Canada’s law on spam and other electronic threats, we Canucks finally get our version of the United States CAN-SPAM legislation. While CAN-SPAM covers e-mail only, Canada’s law steps further by covering a broader range of activities including e-mail, instant messages, text messages and some messages sent through social media. CASL defines this collective group as commercial electronic messages. CASL may be the most vigorous legislation of its kind anywhere in the world.

Business concept male finger pointing delete key on a metallic keyboard
credit: Creative RF/ daoleduc

Marketers are familiar with the US CAN-SPAM legislation with its “opt-out” regime where a business may send commercial e-mail until the recipient revokes consent by clicking an unsubscribe link at the footer of the email. Introduced in 2003, the US bill permits e-mail marketers to send unsolicited e-mail as long as it adheres to defined unsubscribe, content and sending practices. Full disclosure of the senders identity and contact info must be included in the email.

The teeth of the CASL lie in its focus on consent (“opt in”) to receive commercial electronic messages as opposed to the softer, more passive “opt out” of US regulations. In other words, the CASL requires that users explicitly indicate that they wish to receive any messages. As of July 1, 2014, marketers must receive the recipient’s consent, either express or implied, for all commercial electronic messages sent in and out of Canada.

What is consent in this context?

• Anyone who receives a commercial electronic message from you must have given you his or her permission (consent) to do so ahead of time

• There are two types of consent:

– Express, meaning someone actively gave you permission to send him or her a commercial electronic message

– Implied, meaning it would be reasonable to conclude you have someone’s permission to send them a message based on a prior business relationship

Express consent is straightforward in its requirement of the recipient specifically agreeing to receive commercial electronic messages indefinitely until revoked by the recipient. Express (opt-in) consent must be identified; the recipient should have a clear understanding of what they are opting in for. An example would be signing up for a newsletter or blog subscription on a website. Businesses collect email addresses through sign ups and express consent is established through this process. Canadian lawmakers will be happy; the recipient knows, understands and agrees to the communications they will receive from the sender.

Implied consent applies to most day-to-day B2B communications. In this scenario, if a business relationship already exists with the person to whom the email is sent, implied consent is established.

Implied consent, unlike express consent, is not indefinite. Implied consent only permits sending commercial electronic messages for two years following the last business situation that created an applicable relationship, such as a purchase. As such, it will be critical to develop a means to track the currency of all relationships upon which any implied consent is based.

Implied consent also applies if the recipient’s electronic address is “conspicuously published”. For example, placing an email address on a website would establish implied consent for any party to communicate with that address. Implied consent also applies if the recipient has disclosed their electronic address directly to the sender, and has not expressly stated that they do not wish to receive unsolicited messages.

CASL goes much deeper than this brief discussion, covering many areas from activities for harvesting email addresses to computer application installations. It is comprehensive in scope and depth. Most plain speak discussion of CASL is published online by law firms, which indicates the devil is in the details and is best interpreted by those that speak legalese.

For our purposes, we believe the takeaway is paying close attention to best email campaign practices to ensure you are compliant. If you are not involved in the practice of spamming your fellow Canadians with irritating business solicitation with no base of an existing relationship you should have nothing to worry about. If you are not buying email lists and maintaining good list management you should have no problem.

This law targets mass market email advertising, largely unsolicited and undesired by all Canadian businesses. These are the advertising bad guys, the dark side of online marketing. For those who still send unsolicited e-mail messages using questionable email lists, your days will be numbered. No doubt, they deserve their just deserts.

March 27 update: this law applies not only to any commercial messages sent in Canada but also any commercial messages RECEIVED in Canada. The fines are $10 million for corporate violators. Other G20 member countries are touted as participating in enforcement, so the impact will be international. This week the story was picked by the Globe & Mail and the Financial Post.

Good Content is FRUITFUL: Your 8-Point Checklist to Writing Content Worth Reading

Now that it has become such a hot commodity in marketing, content generation may seem to be a new tactic, but it’s been around for decades. David Ogilvy, often referred to as the Father of Advertising, always believed that the steak is more important than the sizzle. He maintained that good copywriters must know their product extensively, present the facts honestly, and explain the products merits effectively.


Ogilvy favoured well-written copy as the most persuasive advertising tool. If you have a good product (and you truly understand your market), your primary task is to inform, educate and explain — thus helping your audience make the logical decision to buy. With all the noise created by marketing these days his message is rather refreshing.

Although content generation is not new, it is now seen as a key means of attracting and engaging with your audience. Which means there is a lot of content out there. Which means there is a lot of crap out there.

It’s not simply a matter of generating content; there are reams and reams (or rather, gigabytes and gigabytes) of content. If your information is going to be noticed and have any effect, it must be good. To help you with that ambition, consider thsi list to make your content more FRUITFUL:

Facts – Do your research and really understand what you are writing about. It’s pretty difficult to inform others from a position of ignorance.

Relevant – Understand who your target audience is. Knowing who you are writing for will inform what you write about as well as how you write it. It will also direct where you post/promote the content.

Useful – Beyond being relevant, is the information of use? Readers will have interest if it affects them: consider how does this information make their life better, simpler or more enjoyable.

Images – Many people are more visually oriented, others are simply too busy to thoroughly read your piece. So complement your words with appropriate photos, tables, charts, funny illustrations, etc. to help convey your message.

Trustworthy – Be honest, in reference to the information as well as how it is presented. We all want our product or service to stand out above the fray, but writing strategically and persuasively does not require falsehoods, or even hyperbole.

Flow – People respond well to stories partly because of their structure. A logical order of information and understandable chain of events makes it easy for readers to follow. The tone of “voice” of your writing and rhythm of the sentences can make your writing more approachable and engaging. (And this may change dramatically depending upon the content or audience.)

Unbiased – Ultimately you have an agenda. If you are communicating professionally, you are either trying to gain awareness for you or your organization, improve SEO, build brand, attract potential clients (or finally impress your mother). But, biased writing is typically discounted or disregarded by readers, so keep their needs in mind , not your own.

Learn – Humans have a thirst for knowledge, we all need to be continuously learning, so being a resource is an excellent way to earn readership. Incorporate tips and information that enable a “knowledge take-away” (like a check list!). Informing is good, but teaching is better (without being preachy or condescending).


There are many considerations when trying to write good content. What would you add to this list? (It doesn’t have to form a longer word… FRUITFULNESS?)