Last post for junk mail? Steep fall in letters you love to hate
THE modern curse of junk mail may be lifting, as figures revealed direct marketing has slumped to its lowest level this century.
According to the Royal Mail, there are now 800,000 fewer items being delivered annually than at the industry peak in 2003. However, the industry watchdog warned that while this might be welcomed by householders, it could be bad news for the postal service.
Figures from the Royal Mail still showed 4.65 billion items of direct mail dropping through doors last year – down 7.4 per cent year on year.
Trisha Dow, director of Postwatch Scotland, said the drop was "worrying" as it would cost the postal service – but the figure could be an aberration due to industrial action by Royal Mail workers last year. Postal workers went on strike over pay and conditions, leading to a major backlog of mail.
Ms Dow said: "We would say it's worrying because it's an element of the mail that helps balance the books. If that drops substantially – and we know there seems to be a growth in electronic marketing – then it's difficult to say we would be glad of that.
"It's not great news if it's anything other than a blip. I would be interested to see if it's a pattern."
According to the advertising industry, the figures mean firms are getting better at targeting direct mail so that householders only get the type of offers in which they are interested. New methods of getting the message out – such as texts and e-mails – are also taking away some of the direct-mail business.
Robert Keich, a spokesman for industry body the Direct Marketing Agency, said: "There is a much greater use of targeting and precision and taking out 'gone always' – people who have left the household.
"You will find the numbers will naturally fall away as precision marketing becomes much more of the done thing.
"Certainly, people would love to run out and say direct mail's old hat, everyone's in the electronic age, but I think that it's a little early to be shouting direct mail's dead, long live e-mail.
"We are seeing brands testing and using different channels but that doesn't really mean there's a direct threat to traditional mail."
For its part, Royal Mail believes the internet is creating the biggest dent in its business. Fraser Chisholm, head of media, said: "The internet is a significant threat to direct mail in its current form but it's a fantastic opportunity for direct mail to re-position itself. "
Stuart Smith, editor of Marketing Week, added: "The problem, in a word, has been the internet. If people can get more directly what they want through a web search, they are likely to be even less tolerant of junk mail."
Artist's decorative protest no deterrent
FOR artist Anne Cohen, junk mail provided the inspiration and the medium to create a sculpture which sets her garden apart from the rest of the street.
She decided to express her frustration at all the unwanted adverts coming through her door by mounting them on a tall metal spike outside her Newcastle home.
The 54-year-old rammed all the direct mail delivered to her address by hand on to the spike. It reached more than 6ft in a year, from 1 January, 2007, and by the end she had to stand on a chair to top it up.
If she had added the mail-shots delivered by Royal Mail, she would have needed two extra spikes.
She said: "It's amazing when you see how much is there. It is such a waste of paper, inks and energy, as most people just pick this sort of stuff up by the armful and bin it.
"The column has become a talking point. People just can't believe how much is there, because they get the same. You would think that people delivering the leaflets wouldn't put them through the door when they see the spike, but they still do."
The value of direct marketing to the Scottish economy last year
People employed in the sector in Scotland
Spending generated as a result of direct marketing in Scotland
Total direct marketing budget in Scotland
Proportion of the UK budget outsourced to overseas
Average salary for people employed in the sector in Scotland
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