Word Of Mouth Guru Andy Sernovitz has a blog posting about email marketing that I had to read twice, because I could not really believe that it was true. In this day and age, I could not conceive of anyone in marketing being so stupid as to think that orchestrating a campaign by capturing "Forward to a Friend" names from a viral promotion and then using them to Spam the friends (including the name of the original friend that sent the original viral invitation) was acceptable.
I guess I understand why Vonage has that insanely annoying tune that sounds so stupid (which is really a song called "Who Hoo" recorded by The 220.127.116.11's in case you were wondering) in their commercials. It fits with the rest of their marketing. Yes, the folks at Vonage thought this was a fine way to grow their business. Forget the fact that any email provider worth their salt, any email consultant, and probably any first year marketing student would tell you it violates every principal in the permission-based marketing book (to say nothing of the books on good taste, ethical marketing and intelligence).
Anyway, read Andy's full post on this (including images of the offensive mailing and email addresses of the responsible executives in case you want to email them).
Once and a while we get a customer that asks if it is okay to capture the forward to a friend addresses. When we explain why we do not even capture them (so there is not even a temptation to ever use them), every customers says something like "well now that you've explained it, that makes a whole lot of sense". For a company that uses the Internet as a core component of their product, you think Vonage would get it.
If you haven't picked up a copy yet, and you want to make sure that Word of Mouth doesn't get the best of you, pick up a copy of Andy's book, Word of Mouth Marketing . It is the definitive text on the subject by the person who took what the Town Crier started and turned it into an marketing tool.