Advertising mail

Advertising mail
Typical advertising mail

Advertising mail, also known as direct mail, junk mail, or admail, is the delivery of advertising material to recipients of postal mail.[1][2] The delivery of advertising mail forms a large and growing service for many postal services, and direct-mail marketing forms a significant portion of the direct marketing industry. Some organizations attempt to help people opt out of receiving advertising mail, in many cases motivated by a concern over its negative environmental impact.

Advertising mail includes advertising circulars, catalogs, CDs, “pre-approvedcredit card applications, and other commercial merchandising materials delivered to homes and businesses. It may be addressed to pre-selected individuals, or unaddressed and delivered on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis.[3][4]


Postal services

1928 direct mail advertising letter offering mail delivery of fish and seafood

Postal systems have enacted lower rates for buyers of bulk mail permits. In order to qualify for these rates, marketers must format and sort the mail in specific ways – which reduces the handling required by the postal service.[5]

Income from advertising mail represents a significant and growing portion of some postal services' budgets, and it is a service actively marketed by them.[6] In Canada, addressed and unaddressed advertising mail accounted for 20% of Canada Post's revenue in 2005,[7] and the share is increasing.[8] Postal services employ the terms advertising mail, admail, and direct mail, while avoiding and objecting to the pejorative term junk mail.[9][10]

In many developed countries, advertising mail represents a significant and growing amount of the total volume of mail. In the United States, "Standard mail: advertising" comprised 29% of all mail in 1980 and 43% in 2003.[11]

Direct mail marketing

Direct mail is a common form of direct marketing, and may be employed by for-profit businesses, charities and other non-profits, political campaigns, and other organizations. Advertisers often refine direct mail practices into targeted mailing, in which mail is sent following database analysis to select recipients considered most likely to respond positively. For example, a person who has demonstrated an interest in golf may receive direct mail for golf-related products, or perhaps for goods and services that are appropriate for golfers. This use of database analysis is a type of database marketing. Alternatively, unaddressed direct mail may be sent on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis. Whether at the individual or neighbourhood level, direct mail marketing allows recipients to be targeted, attempting to match the demographic profile of the recipients to one most closely matching that of likely customers. Individually targeted direct mail may be tailored based on previous transactions and gathered data. For example, all male recipients of an offer may receive a personalized package with a man’s picture on the cover, while all female recipients receive a picture of a woman.

Political usage

Political campaigns often use direct mail, such as these examples from Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Multiple mailings of the same item are common.[12]

Political campaigns make frequent use of direct mail, both to gain votes from the electorate as a whole, and to target certain groups of voters thought to be open to a candidate's message and to appeal for campaign funds.

Certain organizations and individuals have become known for their prowess in direct mail, including in the US, the Free Congress Foundation in the 1970s, Response Dynamics, Inc. in the 1980s, the National Congressional Club, and Richard Viguerie.[13] With the advent of the Internet in political campaigns, direct mail became just one of many campaign management tools, but still played a significant role.

Business-to-Business mailings (B2B)

When targeted to other businesses rather than individuals, direct mail is known as a business to business mailing. Traditionally, this worked in one of two ways: as a direct sale, therefore precluding the use of a salesperson or a retail store, or as a method of generating leads for a salesforce. The former method was ideally used by products that were easy to sell, were familiar to the prospect and needed no demonstration. The latter method was used for large-ticket items or for those that needed demonstration, for example.

One method of direct mailing used in B2B is known as "bill-me". In this direct-mail marketing offer, the buyer is shipped the product prior to payment and then is sent an invoice later.[14]

Opting out

Several organizations offer opt-out services to people who wish to reduce or eliminate the amount of addressed advertising mail they receive. In the UK, the Mailing Preference Service[15] allows people to register with them for removal from posted as opposed to hand-delivered mail. In the US, there are several nonprofit organizations, such as,[16], as well as private sector alternatives like Greendimes.[17]

A black mailbox attached to the side of a house. The mailbox and siding are dirty and caked with a thin layer of ice.
A "No Junkmail" sticker on a mailbox in Calgary, Canada

In response to a US Supreme Court ruling (Rowan v. Post Office Dept.[18]), the United States Postal Service enables an applicant to obtain a Prohibitory Order, which gives people the power to stop non-governmental organizations from sending them mail, and to demand such organizations remove the consumers’ information from their mailing lists.

In Canada, the highly-publicized Red Dot Campaign[19] offers advice on reducing unaddressed advertising mail. The campaign focuses on advertising the Canada Post policy to respect "No Junkmail" signs, noting that this policy is not promoted by Canada Post itself. The name "red dot" refers to an internal marker used by Canada Post to indicate which households do not wish to receive unaddressed admail.[8] [20] [21] The UK Royal Mail also offers an opt-out service, though it sparked public outrage by warning that unaddressed government mailings could not be separated from advertisements, and those who opted out of the latter would stop receiving the former as well.[22]

Several websites critical of junk mail have guides for people interested in reducing the amount of junk mail they get, such as the Center for a New American Dream.[23]

Environmental effect

Several of the above organizations, as well as environmental groups, express concern about the environmental impact generated by direct mail.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 44% of junk mail is discarded without being opened or read, equaling four million tons of waste paper per year,[24] with 32% recovered for recycling.[25] Further, the Ohio Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention (OCAPP) estimates that 250,000 homes could be heated for a single day's junk mail (70,000,000,000,000/3 btu's of energy or 28,870,000,000/21 kwh of energy).[26]

In the UK, the Minister of State responsible for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimated that "direct mail and promotions" accounted for between 500,000 and 600,000 tonnes of paper in 2002, with 13% being recycled.[27] The government and the Direct Marketing Association (UK) together agreed on recycling targets for the direct mail industry, including a goal of 55% by 2009, though the DMA's latest estimates are that the industry will fall well short of this mark.[28]

The CO2 emissions from 41 pounds of advertising mail received annually by the average US consumer is about 47.6 kilograms (105 pounds) according to one study.[29] The loss of natural habitat potential from the 41 pounds of advertising mail is estimated to be 36.6 square meters (396 square feet).[30]

In the US many commercial envelope printing companies are moving towards water-based or vegetable-based ink and laminates, and have increased the use of recycled paper.[31]

See also


  1. ^ "Direct mail", Merriam-Webster Online, 2008, 
  2. ^ "Junk mail", Merriam-Webster Online, 2008, 
  3. ^ "Canada Post - Unaddressed Admail". Archived from the original on 2008-02-20. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  4. ^ "India Post - Direct Post". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  5. ^ "United States Postal Service Tips for Using a Postage Meter for Bulk Mailings". 2008-02-27. 
  6. ^ See e.g. "Royal Mail - Reach your customers with Direct Mail". 2008-02-27. 
  7. ^ "Canada Post chief seeks to boost profit". CBC (CBC). 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  8. ^ a b "Website shows way to stop Canada Post junk mail". (CTV). 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  9. ^ "USPS defends junk mail". 2008-02-27. 
  10. ^ "Canada Post Letter to the Editor". 2008-02-27. 
  11. ^ Schmid, Greg (May 2003) (PDF). Two Scenarios of Future Mail Volumes. U.S. Department of the Treasury. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  12. ^,6265628&dq=bombarded+campaign+mail&hl=en
  13. ^,4965524&dq=richard+viguerie+direct+mail&hl=en
  14. ^ "Glossary". Fuel Net. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  15. ^ "MPS online". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  16. ^ See e.g. Green, Chuck (2006-09-25). "The direct mail stops here: New company helps people halt the deluge". Waste News. 
  17. ^ Novak, Laura (2007-09-06). "For-Profit Crusade Against Junk Mail". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  18. ^ "Rowan v. United States Post Office". 
  19. ^ "Red Dot Campaign". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  20. ^ "Website promotes red dots to stop junk mail". (CBC). 2008-01-31. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  21. ^ "Campaign seeks to save paper by refusing junk mail". (CanWest). 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  22. ^ Barrow, Becky (2006-08-29). "Anger over Royal Mail's junk mail warning". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  23. ^ See e.g. Ryan, Terri Jo (2007-08-06). "You're pre-approved to dunk the junk!". The Virginian-Pilot & The Ledger-Star. , "How to Junk Junk Mail and Other Paper Clutter". The Washington Post. 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  24. ^ "EPA Junk Mail Reduction". 2006-06-28. Retrieved 2010-11-19. 
  25. ^ Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2003, EPA, 2005, 
  26. ^ Ohio OCAPP[dead link]
  27. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 16 October 2003 (pt 4)". Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  28. ^ Hoffbrand, Jenny. "DMA: Recycling targets ‘miles away’". Precision Marketing. 
  29. ^ "Earth Day Rx:...". Retrieved Mar 12, 2009. 
  30. ^ "environmental impact of junk mail". Retrieved Mar 12, 2009. 
  31. ^ "Information, History & Style: Green Tips: 5 Tips to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Marketing Materials". Printing Smarter. 2009-07-14. Retrieved 2010-11-19. 

External links

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