What Would An Advertising World Without Direct Mail Look Like?

Direct mail is a huge portion of the ad business. Lots of people inside the business and outside love to hate it, but it often has a measurable effectiveness rate. Even in the Internet age, plenty of direct mail gets sent. It can be quite targeted, by demographics or neighborhoods, and often customized for the audience.

So the news that The US Post Office might default is a bit of a startler:

Mail volume has plummeted with the rise of e-mail, electronic bill-paying and a Web that makes everything from fashion catalogs to news instantly available. The system will handle an estimated 167 billion pieces of mail this fiscal year, down 22 percent from five years ago.

It’s difficult to imagine that trend reversing, and pessimistic projections suggest that volume could plunge to 118 billion pieces by 2020. The law also prevents the post office from raising postage fees faster than inflation.

118 billion pieces, even if that represents a “plummet,” is still a lot. And one of the things many people don’t know is that FedEx and UPS often partner with the USPS for the “last mile” of both direct mail and package delivery — as in, they would handle the pickup of the package, and get it to the USPS distribution center that’s closest to the customers.

So what would happen if direct mail budgets get slashed? Would the agency business miss the medium? Is it simply outdated or still an important part of an integrated effort?

About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.