To most email marketers, the term SPAM is a word that is well-known: Messages that consist of unsolicited advertisements, typically sent as a mass email. You meticulously ensure your campaigns steer away from the actions strictly forbidden in the CAN SPAM Act of 2003. You dread your emails getting sent to the dungeon that is the SPAM folder, therefore making deliverability an art more than a science. But, do you know where the term “SPAM,” in reference to junk mail, actually originated?
SPAM has been around just about as long as email has, starting in the 70s with ARPANET. The practice of using mass emails to solicit grew into the 80s, including concepts such as the chain letter. From the beginning, the practice was generally frowned upon, since no one had opted-in to receiving the messages. Many argued that the practice of SPAM was flooding their inbox with unwanted messages, therefore ruining the conversation, productivity, and purpose of email. Therefore, in reference to a Monty Python skit, the unwanted messages were deemed SPAM:
As you can see in the video, SPAM flooded the dialogue, prevented any real conversation, was unwanted, and most of all, was annoying — The very definition of SPAM. Thankfully, the makers of the canned delicacy didn’t have an issue with junk email being referred to as SPAM (free advertising?) and we continue to call it that to this day.