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 Is it simply outdated or still an important part of an integrated effort?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

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, 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. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. I come down on the soon-to-be-outdated side. Think about catalogs: They’re a form of direct marketing too – a very pretty form – but, what’s the point of the IKEA catalog when there’s ikea.com?

    The more direct and interactive video gets, and the more direct interactions can be integrated into entertainment, the less sense it makes to have people in blue wool pants running around handing out credit card offers.